By Ted Waddell
LIVINGSTON MANOR February 18, 2005 The plan was simple on Saturday.
"It's an opportunity for people to learn about each other, their lives and religious beliefs, so we can dispel some fears," said Rev. Daniel Hulseapple of the United Methodist Church in Roscoe.
As a child, the local pastor grew up in a Protestant home but had a lot of Catholic neighbors.
"Mass was still said in Latin, and it seemed like a very mysterious thing," he recalled. "We grew up thinking that Catholics were a very mysterious people who did strange things, but since then I've learned that wasn't true."
Then came the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001, and long after the xenophobia of WWII, folks started to fear people of other faiths and religious beliefs.
"We are living in an era of fear," said Rev. Hulseapple. "People fear each other because of their nationality, but when we get to know them, the fear is dispelled."
On Saturday, the Rockland Area Interfaith Council presented the first in a six-part series titled "Open Doors, Open Minds: Synagogues and Churches Studying Together."
Designed as a program for people of both the Jewish and Christian traditions to share their journeys to faith, the first session was held at Congregation Agudas Achim in Livingston Manor.
Subsequent programs will be held February 26, March 12, April 19 and 23, and May 7 and 21, alternately at the United Church of Roscoe and the synagogue.
The program is based upon "Walking God's Paths," a series intended to spark real conversations between Jews and Christians.
It was produced by the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning of Boston College on behalf of the National Council of Synagogues and the Bishops Committee of Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Affairs of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Prior to Saturday's program, Rev. Hulseapple invited the 20-some participants to share a bit of their diverse personal history.
One woman said she hailed from an old German family. Bob Grant told about his family coming to America and joining the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630. And Bob Friedman of Congregation Agudas Achim said his family fled the pogroms of Latvia and Russia during the second World War.
Andrew Osterczy, a member of St. Frances de Chantal Church in the Bronx, served as narrator as different participants read selected passages of the script.
Born and raised in Warsaw, Poland, Osterczy immigrated to the United States in 1949.
"I love this country very dearly," he said. "You don't appreciate freedom until you've lost it."
James Cuggino is a regular parishioner at St. Aloysius Roman Catholic Church in the Manor.
"It seems to me the purpose of any religion is to to teach us to be holy before a living God," he said.
"We've got to learn how to do the right thing and be holy," added Cuggino. "If you really want to express a faith in God, you have to develop relationships. . . . It's crazy to kill people over religion."
For information about upcoming sessions of "Open Doors, Open Minds," call Rev. Hulseapple at (607) 498-5153 or Friedman at 439-5708.
"Through a real community of God, we'll honor each other's ways of worship and living their lives," said Rev. Hulseapple.