News Story

Church Leaders Build Interfaith
Relationships in Baltimore

Five years ago, Richard Glickstein, president of the National Bible Association, brought together Reverend Doctor Al Hathaway, senior pastor of the Union Baptist Church in Baltimore, and Craig Halsey, president of the Baltimore Maryland Stake (similar in size to a diocese) of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and other religious leaders from the area to read scriptures from the Bible at Baltimore City Hall.

Now the two are friends who share a common goal of serving Jesus Christ. They were recently in Salt Lake City together to celebrate National Bible Week, which included an interfaith performance in the Tabernacle on the Church’s historic Temple Square. The concert showcased musical talent from Utah and the Baltimore area, in addition to dramatic scripture readings from actress Roma Downey and her husband, well-known television producer Mark Burnett.

“We found ourselves one cold wintery day in front of the city hall reading to the pigeons, but it was beautiful because out of it we all found there were persons who had a faith belief in the sacred text and what it meant and the change that it could make if one believed in the words they read,” said Doctor Hathaway. He said the inaugural day of prayer started a “spark” in the religious community in Baltimore. “We ended up being the organizing nucleus to keep this idea going,” he explained. The annual day of prayer is now in its fourth year.

Recent interfaith service projects in Baltimore have included not only the annual day of prayer but also a 5K run and 3K walk and the distribution of Christmas baskets. “We have spent so much time focusing on ministerial things together that we have not had time talking about the theological,” said President Halsey. “The scriptures of course tell us all of our sacraments, all of our ordinances, everything we do, mean nothing unless we have some social morality, and that social morality is of course feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and weeping with those who weep, and so together those are the things we focus on, which really is the essence of serving Jesus Christ,” he said.

President Halsey; Doug Desmarais, a member of the Baltimore Maryland Stake high council;  and other local leaders of the Church in Baltimore have visited the Union Baptist Church with their families, who said they were treated as though they were part of the congregation. Doctor Hathaway has attended and spoken at events and met with congregations of the Church. “I found everybody warm and welcoming and authentic,” he said.

“The attack is on the family,” said Doctor Hathaway. “We can focus on the many needs of the family in the Baltimore area,” said President Halsey, who is a native of Baltimore. His family came from a Methodist and Baptist background. His parents were first-generation members of the Church. “We are brothers and sisters in what we’re trying to do.”

When faith leaders serve together, we “discover this mosaic that God has created,” said Doctor Hathaway, who emphasized the interfaith church leaders in the community don’t focus on political and secular issues.

Doctor Hathaway said love has been the common denominator in his interfaith relationships in Baltimore. “Love for your faith, love for God, love for Jesus, love for family, love for community,” he said. “Our conversations have always been about the greater good.”

President Halsey said society prospers when it centers on churches and families. “When we are arm and arm in the public square, it’s a whole lot harder to knock us all out of there,” he said.  “Society would crumble without the faith community being the anchor,” added Doctor Hathaway.

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