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‘Spirit of compassion’ is Best exemplified

January 21

About 50 people gathered at the Soul Cafe Sunday evening to celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity with a free supper and a message from guest speaker, Bishop Edmond L. Browning of the Episcopal church.

The ecumenical gathering was at the invitation of Gorge Ecumenical Ministries (GEM), a group of representitives from 14 area ministries working toward Christian unity.

The evening began with a special celebration of FISH Food Bank volunteers for their service to the community. Each volunteer received a fish-decorated magnet as a token gift of appreciation.

A very surprised and touched Irene Best received a special “Lifetime Service Award,” from GEM and FISH Food Bank for her 24 years of continuous service to the food bank.

“The name Irene Best has become so closely associated with the food bank, it’s hard to think of one without the other,” said Marianne Durkan, representing St. Mary’s Church in GEM, when announcing the award. Rev. Christina Fridel, GEM president, presented Best with a bouquet of flowers and an engraved clear plaque.

“I wasn’t expecting this,” Best said, quite affected by the honor. “Thank you so much.”

Another person honored at the gathering was Lou DeSitter, a member of St. Mary’s Church, who was named “GEM Church Person of the Year.” DeSitter was honored for his extensive volunteer work in the community.

The Right Rev. Browning’s theme for the evening was on the responsibility of the religious community in times of terrorism. He examined roots of terrorism — why they hate us, and why they resort to “illegimate ways” to change their lot — and what he feels is the greatest sin the church has to face: apathy.

Browning shared many of his experiences in South Africa and elsewhere around the globe, visiting refugee camps, an AIDS ward, and homeless shelters, where he found himself asking the question, “Does anybody care?”

“To make a difference in the world today, the world’s churches, individually and collectively, must possess the spirit of compassion,” Rev. Browning said. “Compassion breaks down the walls that apathy makes.”

The Soul Cafe, a non-profit coffee shop in the Oak Street Mall, holds free suppers every Sunday where a different theme is explored each week.

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