NORMAN — A diverse crowd of more than 100 gathered Monday morning at McFarlin Memorial Methodist Church for the fifth annual Mayor’s Interfaith Breakfast.
What organizers say was the biggest turnout, the breakfast brought together Norman’s diverse faith communities and honored the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Mayor Cindy Rosenthal and the Norman Human Rights Commission hosted the program.
“We come together for really three purposes today. We come to celebrate the importance of building a community at an individual level as we share breakfast and share conversation,” Rosenthal said. “Secondly, we are reminded that we as a community and as a nation, always seek peace in the midst of strife and distress. And finally, we come together this morning as a celebration of our commitment to justice and inclusion in this generation and beyond.
“As I look out at this gathering, it is particularly thrilling to see such a rich diversity of our community. Young and old. Black, brown, red and white. Christian, Muslim and Jew. Norman is indeed a wealthy community, and I don’t mean wealth in a material sense or in the terms of money or possessions, but rather wealthy in faith and the selflessness of individuals who step forward to serve this community and our nation.
“As Martin Luther King said, ‘Everybody can be great because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of a grace, a soul generated by love.’”
Featured speakers at Monday’s breakfast were Lisa Eubanks, president of People First, and Linda Shannon, a board member of Progressive Independence and CART.
“Everybody has a right to work, to go to school, get married, have children or do whatever they want to and be taxpayers. And that way, people will feel good about themselves,” Shannon said. “I do have a dream. My dream is to walk down the street and nobody would stare at me. I would like the next generation not to go through what I went through. The dream must go on. We’ve got so much to do.”
Eubanks also told the crowd she has a dream where individuals with disabilities are more accepted into communities.
“Oklahomans living with disabilities have an ally in their fight for acceptance. That ally is Oklahoma People First,” Eubanks said. “We’re a group of nonprofit designed to help persons with disabilities to identify problems, but also to find positive solutions to those problems. But that’s just one positive step. We have a long way to go.
“We must light the way for future generations of Oklahomans with disabilities. We must ensure their rights and freedoms as citizens not only of our great state, but also the United States of America. We must ensure that they receive dignity, respect. It’s time to break the silence. It’s time to stand up and speak out.
“Today, if Martin Luther King were alive, I’m sure he’d say, ‘It’s not the color of our skin that defines them, it is merely a part of them. It’s the actions of the heart that resonate. Just as our disabilities do not define us, it’s merely a part of who we are. It’s time to take hold of the dream. It’s time to embrace change.’”
Cheryl Pazis, Religious Society of Friends (Quaker) provided a silent worship during the breakfast. Rev. David Spain, senior pastor of First Christian Church, said a prayer for dignity and worth. The Rev. Chad Williams, associate pastor of Harvest Church, said a prayer for forgiveness and reconciliation during the breakfast.
Deacon Jeff Willard, pastoral associate of St. Joseph Catholic Church, offered a prayer for refugees and victims of war. Imad Enchassi, senior Imam and president of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, offered an interfaith prayer for healing.
Rev. Chebon Kernell, pastor of First American Methodist Church, closed out the breakfast with a Native prayer. Rev. Randy Wade, associate pastor of McFarlin Memorial Methodist Church, offered an opening prayer and blessing.