Reflections on the past and future

Michele Marr

As one year ended and another began, we asked a few members of

Newport-Mesa's faith community to talk about their thoughts on the past

and their hopes for the year to come. Here's what they had to say:

"I hope more people will take the time and make it a priority to learn

how each of us is responsible for creating peace or making trouble in our

own lives, and thus in the world. This is very difficult, because we are

bombarded by distractions and escapes. At the Zen Center we recommend

daily meditation and other awareness practices throughout the day."

-- The Rev. Deborah Barrett

Director, Zen Center of Orange County

"The horrific tragedy of Sept. 11 brought much suffering and pain to

thousands of families, pain that will continue for years. We have all

felt this pain. One of the great mysteries of life is how God can turn

evil into good. My hope for the new year is that God will continue to do

this, not only in New York and Washington, D.C., but in the lives of

every American.

"Already we have seen good come out of this tragedy. We have seen the

rebirth of patriotism unlike anything in my lifetime. Americans have

rediscovered the value of their country and their neighbors. They are

also rediscovering God. I read one interview about a New York City woman

who since Sept. 11 has begun attending church for the first time. She

said, 'I had never had a need for God, but somehow Starbucks and yoga

does not cut it anymore.'

"People are looking for answers, for hope. One of our sister churches

in New York City added 1,000 people to their congregation following the

tragedy. My hope for our community and for Redeemer Presbyterian Church

is that the events of Sept. 11 will continue to drive home to us the

reality of our vulnerability in this world, our dependence on the creator

and our desperate need for him. Only a relationship with Jesus Christ can

supply the meaning, the purpose and the peace we all seek. Ultimately, as

tragedy points out, faith in the sovereign God is the only thing that

makes sense of life in an often-chaotic world.

"My hope for the new year is a revival of Christianity in our

community, the kind of revival where lives are transformed, where people

experience true freedom from fear and taste the wonder of a relationship

with God. We as a community would then discover that when lives are

changed, the community is changed for the better as well. This is the

true meaning of peace on Earth and it is my hope for the new year."

-- Jim Belcher

Pastor, Redeemer Presbyterian Church

"Years come and go. We look backward as well as forward. We reminisce

about the good old days and dream of many unfulfilled hopes. The past is

oftentimes bittersweet or sad. But the future, we hope, will be different

-- filled with joy, peace, comfort, success and pleasures. The past will

diminish and subside in strength. Sad times are not felt as forcefully as

[they were] at the moment when they happened. The future shines with the

brightest glow, making all things exciting and glorious."

-- Father Moushegh Tashjian

St. Mary Armenian Apostolic Church

"The year 2001 has left a lasting impression on every American. The

tragedy of Sept. 11 will remain with us as a testament of tribulations,

fears and hopes. Muslims, not only in America, but also across the world,

were devastated by the senseless and inhuman acts done to the innocent.

"With every tragedy comes hope. The aftermath of the attacks has

brought communities, religious faiths and ordinary people to inquire

about each other, to understand each other and to build relations with

one another. The Muslim community in Orange County was overwhelmed with

support and love. [People] reached out to us and we reached out to them

because that is what American values and principles [call us to] do; they

[call us to] take care of one another. We met many wonderful people

within our community.

"The saddest part about it is that it took a tragedy [for us] to get

to know our neighbors. It is our hope that in the year 2002 [we] will be

able to unite and strengthen our nation as a people who can see beyond

the color, race or religion of its people to form a nation that stands as

a model of humanity.

"May peace, love, and understanding fill us all."

-- Fatma Saleh

Author of "A New Perspective: Women in Islam," Islamic Educational

Center of Orange County

"This [past] year has been a very intriguing year for all of us. The

tragic events of the final months of 2001 will certainly classify the

year in works of history to come. Although the year will be remembered

for these events, their aftermath crystallized the kindness and the

brotherhood that we so yearn for.

"The outpour of love, compassion, kindness and benevolence that came

to the fore is, perhaps, the underlining theme that modern history should

focus on. Society has found a deeper meaning in life and its potential in

the value of family and friends and in the importance of friendship and


"Let us join together and resolve that the new year will allow us each

to continue to deepen our appreciation of one another and, together, to

transform the world into a better place for ourselves and the generations

to come -- one mitzvah, one act of goodness and kindness, at a time."

-- Rabbi Reuben Mintz

Chabad Jewish Center of Newport Beach

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