Valley clergy share high hopes for 2014

The Fresno BeeDecember 27, 2013 

What is your hope for the new year?

We posed that question to clergy members and ministry leaders in the central San Joaquin Valley. After all, they work tirelessly toward the well-being of others, both physically and spiritually.

Their hopes ranged from people getting along with each other regardless of their religious, racial, political and gender differences to seeing violence end, particularly in schools.

Here are the responses:

Be looked at equally

Fresno, I have a hope that we will not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of prostitution, gangs, abuse, drugs, bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plain of dignity and love.

I have a hope that our seniors' bodies in certain sections in our city, that are weighed down with fatigue, will not have the nearest major grocery store 10 blocks away, when in other sections of our city, there is a major grocery store on every corner.

I have a hope that we will be one people in 2014, for we will never be satisfied until our children are looked at equally whether they were born on (the) worst side or the best side, because I have a hope that in 2014 our city will stand up and live out the meaning of our nation's creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equally."— The Rev. D.J. Criner, pastor of Saint Rest Baptist Church in southwest Fresno

Decrease mistrust

As we ponder on our successes and failures of 2013, I also look forward to the beginning of a new year full of new hopes and new aspirations.

May the new year usher in a more successful economy, and we can live peacefully in our diversity by decreasing misunderstanding and mistrust, so that we are able to build relationships for a more peaceful world, where every person can live with dignity, freedom and is able to cherish the basic human rights.

— Ike Grewal, spokesman for the Sikh community in the central San Joaquin Valley

Show presence of love

My hope is that we become ever more conscious that:

We bear to the world the life within us;

Communication is essential within ourselves, between others, with God — for birth, growth, forgiveness, and reconciliation to happen;

All is gift;

The greatest of gifts is the unending presence of love.

— Sister Joanne Bauer, coordinator of Family Life Ministry for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno


End violence in schools

The level of violence here at home and around the world leaves no other option than to hope for peace.

As such, my hopes for 2014 are: not to see any tragedies or violence in any of our schools, the end of violence in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East, the release of abducted Syrian bishops and nuns and more funding for, so it can save more lives in Afghanistan.

— Seyed Ali Ghazvini, imam of the Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno


Build bridges of hope

My hope is for revival, that Jesus' followers love him, love one another and love broken people among whom he walked.

We must be witnesses of his love, representing him among those who seek to end homelessness, welcome strangers, build bridges of hope and be peacemakers on the streets of our cities and in houses of government. Speaking truth, if we do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God, it will be enough.

— Tom Sims, interim director of Mid-Valley Southern Baptist Association and pastor of 4141 Ministries in Fresno


Respect each other

My hope is simple – that we will follow those teachings that inspire us to work for peace.

Let us be far reaching in the ways that we promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person in our global community. Let us extend that respect to all creatures.

In 2014, I pray we will stop believing that our differences divide us, and instead join together in building a world of love and justice.

— The Rev. Sofia Betancourt, interim minister at Unitarian Universalist Church of Fresno


Work as if one body

My hope is to see greater collaboration between our faith-based sector and our greater community. There are so many untapped resources within our faith community. Churches have buildings to use, people to serve and funds to do God's work.

When we come along places like our foster-care system, social service provider and our families in crisis, we can do so much as the church body. We have the greatest resource on the earth for sustained change. Let's make the most of it in 2014!

— Whitney Bunker, co-founder of City Without Orphans ministry in Fresno


Be peacemakers

No more wars. Hope our troops are back home without any further delay. No more violence in our schools and neighborhoods. Hope we become more respectful, tolerant, civil and learn how to get along with each other regardless of our religious, racial, political and gender differences.

Peace on earth and goodwill toward all will be when we are at peace with our own self, with our fellow beings and with mother earth.

— Sudarshan Kapoor, a professor emeritus in social work at Fresno State and a community voice for nonviolence


See through God's eyes

That the generosity shown to others during this time of year would continue throughout the new year. That we would continue to see the world through God's eyes, and be His hands and feet.

That we become more tolerant of others, their views and morals, even though we may not agree. That we can express ourselves through freedom of speech without judgment and condemnation.

— Sharon Gonzales, a founder of BigFish Ministries for the homeless


'Do unto others ... '

My hope would be to see love unconditionally expressed across all so-called "boundaries" of humanity: national, racial, sexual, political, religious, economic.

Every great religion — and certainly Christianity — has at its core the command to love one's fellow man — to "do unto others as we would have them do unto us."

If each of us commits individually to truly living out from this great command, we can transform our world for the better.

— Diana Davis Butler, a Christian Science practitioner/teacher in Coarsegold

Heed angels' voices

My hope is for a few more silent nights. My hope is that throughout the year we can step back and hear the angel's message of good news: "Fear not … for unto you is born this day … a Savior who is Christ the Lord."

My hope is that we can heed the message of the angelic choir singing, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on Earth peace amongst those on whom his favor rests."

— The Rev. Kristopher D. Madsen, pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Easton


Remember God loves us

Our challenge is to be a "difference maker" in our community by showing the love of Christ to others because God loves us, always has, always will.

— Tom Sommers, executive director of Christian Business Men's Connection- Fresno


The reporter can be reached at or (559) 441-6304.

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