Thursday, March 14, 2019

How the Interfaith Alliance of Eastern Carolina Impacts Greenville, Pitt County AND BEYOND by Ann Harrington ARCWP

 L to R:  Pastor Rodney Coles, Chris Pernell, Samar Badwan, Lynn Caverly, Ann Harrington ARCWP

Matthew 5: 3-12, Jesus says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness and blessed are the peacemakers”.
I have heard this retranslated as “Evolved are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness and evolved are the peacemakers”.
Could it be that we are the advance party for the next stage of human evolution?  In any case we are a few representatives of the many who have participated in the Interfaith Alliance of Eastern Carolina.  Each of us dearly hungers and thirsts and works for a more just and peaceful world. 

Thank you for being here.  My name is Ann Harrington.  Before I introduce myself more fully and the other panel members, I would like to thank Dr. Mary Nyangweso, Dr. Kathy Dawson and everyone in the Religious Studies Program who invited us to share our stories while this august conference is going on.  Please keep in mind that we are grassroots Interfaith activists and have not received the benefits or the harm of academic rigor in this area of our lives. Each of us has a unique story and mission.
We must also thank Rod Debs, retired Unitarian pastor for organizing us and putting together the slide show. 
Our topic is how the Alliance has impacted our community.  I hope we succeed in doing this. 
To my left is Samar Badwan, board member of the Islamic Center and Vice Chair of the Greenville Human Relations Council, next is Lynn Caverly, former Director of the Alliance, who will tell us the history of the Alliance.  Pastor Coles might be best described as a networking specialist and will speak on the Churches Outreach Network. Last but not least is Chris Pernell, director of Partners in Health and Wholeness for the North Carolina Council of Churches.
I have asked members of this panel to keep their remarks to no more than 5 minutes.  We want to leave time for questions and allow time for our attendees to share their wisdom and experiences.  If you are going over time, I am telling you now I am going to try and move you along.
Once again, my name is Ann Harrington.  I was ordained with the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests in 2014.  The women priest’s movement is a renewal, healing and justice movement within Roman Catholicism.  I have broken the Roman Catholic canon law that forbids the ordination of women. I am the founding priest and pastor of Free Spirit Inclusive Catholic Community here in Greenville, NC. 
 My call to priesthood is all wrapped up in this group.   Though I attended a few of the Alliance’s early meetings, I did not participate regularly until much later.  In 2002, I was an ordinary member of the laity of the Roman Catholic Church.   It was 10 years later that I heard my unexpected call to priesthood.  Lynn was co-director of the Alliance then and she invited me to be a speaker.  She and I had been dissident daughters of the Roman Catholic Church for some time.
On April 1, 2013 I brought the film “Pink Smoke Over the Vatican” for viewing and discussion to an Interfaith Alliance meeting.   “Pink Smoke” is a 2011 documentary on the women’s priest movement.  Thirty people showed up at the Unitarian church for that meeting.  From that group our infant community was born.  Free Spirit Inclusive Catholic Community, where all are welcome to fully participate in our liturgies, celebrated its first Eucharist on Pentecost, 2013.  
After the ”Pink Smoke” event, I  became a regular Alliance attendee. Free Spirit has hosted several Monday evening meetings and brought participatory dance to the Thanksgiving Celebrations. 
I think of myself as a planter of seeds of a new consciousness.  My unique gift to eastern North Carolina is offering liturgies using Creation/Evolutionary/Feminist Theology.  Our Ash Wednesday prayer was, “remember, you are stardust and unto stardust you shall return”.
 I share at our Monday Interfaith meetings my understanding of an authentic Catholicism that proclaims that God loves diversity and is experienced in many ways and celebrated in many kinds of traditions. The emerging church is swimming against the tide of centuries of patriarchal power structures, destructive clericalism and abusive Atonement Theology.  I also see myself as a bridge builder to the church of the future.  My understanding is that humanity has never been separated from God.  The Holy One has both male and female qualities and it is equally valid and important to call God mother as it is father.  God as I understand and experience Her is Everlasting and Unconditional Love.  We are all born worthy.   I see no validity in the doctrine of Original Sin, rather there was Original Blessing. 
 Catholic women priests use egalitarian language, such as kin-dom instead of kingdom.  We believe Jesus, in the words of former Catholic priest and New Testament Scholar, John Dominic Crossan, has said was a “radical egalitarian”.
Each week I lead a faith sharing group at Tarboro Community Outreach, a mission to the homeless and the materially poor, 25 miles from here.  A Catholic sister runs the Center and invited me to lead services there soon after my ordination.  I can assure you they have never heard the Word of God preached quite like I preach it.  We drum, we sing, we do Bible study.  We celebrate Eucharist and other sacraments. 
We women priests are following Jesus.  He never denied anyone his gifts. He preached with his life the God of Radical Inclusion.  
I thank the Interfaith Alliance of Eastern Carolina for embracing my priesthood and being a place for me to discover and share my gifts.  I thank the many people of faith and no faith who have graced our meetings with their presence and have shared their longing for peace and justice.  My life is much richer for it.


The Interfaith Alliance of Eastern Carolina participated in the Southeastern Regional Conference on Religious Studies (SECSOR) hosted by the Religious Studies Program at East Carolina University held on March 8-9, 2019.  The theme of the conference was “Religion, Animality and the Posthuman”.  The Alliance was invited to speak on our impact in the community.  Panel members and their topics were:
Ann Harrington ARCWP, Pastor/Priest Free Spirit Inclusive Catholic Community: “Planting Seeds of a New Consciousness”
Samar Badwan, board member Islamic Temple, co-chair Greenville Human Relations Council: “Interfaith Solidarity”
Lynn Caverly, former director of the Interfaith Alliance, “History and Highlights”
Pastor Rodney Coles, Churches Outreach Network, “Building Community Unity”
Chris Pernell, North Carolina Council of Churches, Partners in Health and Wholeness: “Strength in Unity, Peace though Justice”

No comments: