Aug. 18 is the annual “Works Sunday,” when the faith communities of Reston and Herndon join together to “make a difference for good.” Twenty faith communities are working together for the 18th year to help members of the community who are in need. Communities of faith include the United Christian Parish—where the Reverend LaVerne Gill, who was an intern at the time, started the first program—and many other Christian, Catholic, Unitarian, Buddhist and Muslim communities. Projects include gathering donations for the Abused Women’s Shelter, Laurel Learning Center, Embry Rucker Shelter, Lunch for the Soul, and an adult winter clothing drive. Service projects include luncheons and programs in local senior homes, food and blood drives, and repairing group homes. I have found participation over the years to be very satisfying. To learn about specific activities and ways you can volunteer to help, go to www.workssunday.org.
Faith communities have traditionally involved themselves in various mission and social justice programs to help the needy in the community. They have played a vital role in helping the poor, the sick and the aged. As participation in houses of worship has declined, there has been a drop off in the ability of faith communities to meet the social service and welfare needs of the community. In fact, as important as the work of volunteers in the community has been, churches and temples and places of worship have never been able to meet the full extent of the needs in their local areas.
As the ultraconservatives seek to slash government programs including food stamps and other social welfare programs, the rationale has sometimes been given that this work should be left to the religious institutions. Such a view is totally unrealistic in terms of the dimension of the need. A “Bread for the World” study calculated the funds religious institutions would have to raise if the food stamp allotment proposed in last year’s House of Representatives budget had been implemented. The study concluded that every church, synagogue, mosque and house of worship in the United States would need to raise $50,000 in additional monies every year for 10 years. Obviously that is not going to happen.
Recently Reston Interfaith changed its name to Cornerstones. This important nonprofit structure providing housing and other social services that was started by Reston’s faith communities has grown in its service area and in its range of programs. While the faith communities will continue to play an important role in its work, it is much more reliant for support on government contracts and grants and business support than from faith communities.
I hope everyone will join me on Works Sunday and will continue to support Reston Interfaith—now Cornerstones. Our contributions are critical to the quality of life for many in our community. We should not fool ourselves, however; we continue to need food stamps and the social and welfare programs that government can most realistically and efficiently provide.