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Faces on Faith: Interfaith spirit exists on Sanibel

By Staff | Sep 7, 2012

Rev. Dr. John H. Danner

The year-round populations of Sanibel and Captiva don’t even reach 7,000 in number, yet despite their small size the islands are served by several faith communities.

The oldest of them, Sanibel Community Church, is now almost 100 years old. Other year-round congregations followed, including St. Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church, St. Isabel’s Roman Catholic Church, Sanibel Congregational United Church of Christ, the Christian Science Church and Bat Yam-Temple of the Islands. Additionally, Captiva is served seasonally by Chapel-by-the-Sea.

Many of the island’s clergy participate in an informal clergy group that meets on a fairly regular basis for lunch and conversation about mutual concerns. This column grows out of those conversations. Each week a different member of the island clergy will offer commentary on one or another of the issues of our day from their own faith perspective.

Personally, I am grateful for the ecumenical and interfaith spirit that exists in this place. We are fortunate to be able to work together in meeting the spiritual and religious needs of so many folks (year-round residents, seasonal residents as well as tourists and vacationers) who pass our way.

While on vacation this year I visited the historic district in Philadelphia, and was reminded as I spent time at Independence Hall and the National Constitution Center how hard won and how important our religious liberty was, and is, to the American story. Being able to worship as we feel called so to do, being free to not worship at all, these are cornerstones of our life together as a nation – and as a community here on Sanibel and Captiva. Being free to hold our own religious views and beliefs is an essential part of our democratic way.

One of the key figures in Philadelphia during the days of our founding as a nation was John Adams. Adams was a member of the Congregational Church and therefore one of my religious forebears. His summation of faith could be mine as well.

In part he wrote, “My religion is founded on the love of God and neighbor … [and] in the duty of doing no wrong, but all the good I can …”

That’s how Adams saw it – and that’s how I see it as well. Indeed, I’ve thought about that a lot, over the years.

As I’ve worked on projects like Habitat for Humnaity, as I’ve supported human services programs like FISH, as I’ve spent time working for environmental organizations like Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation, I have been reminded again and again, that people of differing faiths and people of no faith, can work together for the common good if they share a desire to see all people share the good life.

But I am just one voice among many. Such is the American way! This column will reflect a diversity of viewpoints – and that is how it should be! But one thing each of us who will write hold in common is a commitment to serving the people of Sanibel and Captiva.