Momentum grows from Texas interfaith efforts

Community relationships strengthened through JustServe projects, interfaith events

Members of several different religions are growing their relationships and understanding as they work together in Georgetown, Texas.

Their efforts have included regular interfaith dinners, programs, events and service projects through the Georgetown Ministerial Alliance.

For example, they had interfaith devotionals this month and in October 2023. And a large service effort for Sept. 11, 2023, was done with the help of JustServe — a community service platform with a website and app for volunteers and community organizations.

The interfaith firesides took months of joint planning and included speakers, prayers, music, presentations and discussions with the Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities around the central Texas community about 30 miles, or about 45 kilometers, north of Austin, Texas.

A choir consisting of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Round Rock Texas East Stake sings “Hallelujah Peace” at an interfaith event in Round Rock, Texas, Oct. 29, 2023. | Jessica Murray

Nancy Camacho, from the Round Rock Texas East Stake and a member of the ministerial alliance, said as they have come together as an interfaith group, “we have rekindled the spirit of unity, peace, kindness, love — and you know those things are here in our town, Georgetown.”

Camacho served as chair for the Georgetown Ministerial Alliance committee for last year’s 9/11 National Day of Service project, and said planning is now underway for this year’s day of service.

“The momentum of last year’s 9/11 National Day of Service is far reaching not only in the community but the members in getting excited about what the communication council has next,” Camacho said.

More than 150 people came together last September to help make no-sew T-shirt bags to go to three community food pantries: Helping Hands of Georgetown, The Caring Place and The Salvation Army. Children, youth and adult volunteers created 954 T-shirt bags — exceeded the goal of creating 911 bags.

Volunteers work together at a table to make t-shirt bags in Georgetown, Texas.
Volunteers from different faiths join in the 9/11 National Day of Service in Georgetown, Texas, on Sept. 9, 2023. | Jessica Murray

An additional 300 extra shirts were also donated to Helping Hands of Georgetown to help clothe local men in need, and the day included a blood drive to help people in need around Central Texas. Volunteers were able to sign up on JustServe and organizations have continued to post further opportunities for local and remote service projects for people of all ages.

“At its heart, Georgetown is an incredibly service-minded community full of acts of kindness and love all year long,” Camacho said. “We [were] honored and excited to host an event that highlights that continued spirit of service and unity, while supporting the ongoing efforts of our local food pantries.”

Three members of the Georgetown Ministerial Alliance in Texas.
Nancy Camacho, center, from the Round Rock Texas East Stake, serves on the Georgetown Ministerial Alliance with Reverend Pastor Tina Schramme of the First United Methodist Church Georgetown, left, and Reverend Pastor Joseph Ibanez of Georgetown Church of the Nazarene, right. They are pictured here in Georgetown, Texas, during a day of service on Sept. 9, 2023. | Jessica Murray

Mualla Ozguven, the director of Dialogue Institute Austin, represents the Muslim community on the alliance. She said true adherence to Islam means living a life centered on peace and unity.

“Accepting every individual and society, their culture and perspective, uniting to solve common issues and maintaining a dialogue may well be the only solution in putting a stop to the hatred and violence and bringing security to the world,” she said.

During her remarks at last September’s event, Marjorie Wilkov, a member of the Congregation Havurah Shalom, said the day represented healing and a bright future of unity and kindness.

“Our service today, right here and now, is dedicated to unity and peace,” Wilkov said. “This National Service Day observance is a chance to express our hopes for peace, unity and commitment to serving others. By this interfaith effort, we are creating ‘tikkun olam,’ meaning [in Hebrew] to repair and improve the world.”

Two women of different faiths embrace in Georgetown, Texas.
Margie Wilkov, left, and Mualla Ozguven, right, participate in an interfaith day of service and unity in Georgetown, Texas, on Sept. 9, 2023. | Jessica Murray

Ron Swain, who serves as the chaplain at Southwestern University, said over the last several years, the Georgetown Ministerial Alliance has been working to create a better community. During last year’s 9/11 service project, he told those gathered together how they were bringing about more peace and unity.

“It is out of the unity that we share here today that you will be blessing those people that you have no knowledge of, you have no relationship with,” he said. “But, your work today goes around, not only Georgetown, but around the globe.”

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