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Houses of Faith Offer Tsunami Aid

Three area congregations are participating in services related to the December tsunami and earthquake in Asia and Africa.

Area congregations are joining together to offer spiritual and monetary support for victims of the late-December tsunami.

"We are responding to the need we see out there," said Beth Braxton, pastor of Burke Presbyterian Church, whose congregation is taking part in a joint benefit concert on Saturday to raise funds to send overseas.

"That's the call of Christ in the book of Luke, when he says, 'The spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has called me to give good news to the poor and sight to the blind, and help those who are captives,'" said Braxton.

In Fairfax Station, Ekoji Buddhist Temple is conducting a memorial service on Sunday as part of its regular weekly worship.

"We wanted to have a memorial service to express our compassion and hopes for a better life for the survivors, as well as for the victims of the tsunami, not just from south Asia, but also Africa," said Gerri Cantwell, president of the board of directors for Ekoji.

The temple, located on the corner of Burke Lake Road and the Fairfax County Parkway in Fairfax Station, will include the memorial in its weekly, 11 a.m. worship service. Rev. Shojo Honda will give the key dharma, or message, and another lay member of the congregation will deliver another dharma, both centered around the tsunami tragedies. In addition, Honda will lead a sutra chant, and the congregation will take part in gatha, singing, during the service.

Cantwell said the singing will be included especially for the commemorative tone of the afternoon.

"We don't normally have gathas," she said, "but we are going to include it as part of way for the people who come to participate with music."

The offering from Sunday's service will be sent entirely overseas, most likely to a monk friend of the congregation in Sri Lanka who has visited Ekoji, said Cantwell.

THE SERVICE at Burke Presbyterian, which begins at 5:30 p.m., will be aimed at bringing two communities of faith together, as the Congregation Adat Reyim in Springfield also will participate.

"There's a long-standing tradition between the church and the synagogue," said Bruce Aft with Adat Reyim. "We've gotten together on other occasions, so we decided to do a benefit concert."

Music groups, including a folk group, chancel choir and worship band from Burke Presbyterian, and adult and youth choirs from Adat Reyim, will perform in an informal, "coffeehouse" setting. Both Braxton and Aft will deliver readings, and there will be a time for prayer for the people affected by the tsunami disasters.

"I think there's a sense of 'What can I do to help?' said Aft. "Right now, the best thing everybody's saying we can do is to raise funds."

Burke Presbyterian will also be collecting health kits, to distribute overseas through the nonprofit Church World Service. The church is a designated drop-off spot, and an offering will be taken to donate as well, on Saturday.

"When people come together … working on an issue of need for someone else, it is one of the most beautiful ways to build the integrity of communities," said Braxton.

"Sometimes doctrine divides us, but mission unites us."