By Anne Marie Amacher
DAVENPORT — With a fire burning in the foreground, members of Quad Cities Interfaith began a three-year strategic campaign titled “Fire of Faith” Oct. 25 at Sacred Heart Cathedral. The campaign is to rekindle its congregations, and the economy and democracy.
Leslie Kilgannon, director of Quad Cities Interfaith (QCI), welcomed the nearly 50 people in attendance from more than 20 different congregations.
After the opening prayer by the Rev. Rogers Kirk of Third Missionary Baptist Church in Davenport, Joe Heinrichs, president of QCI, spoke on building faith communities. “We can use our skills to build our congregations. When congregations are strong, QCI is strong,” said Heinrichs, a member of Sacred Heart Cathedral.
A flame was lit by Vikki Blair of Broadway Presbyterian Church in Rock Island, Ill., and it burned throughout the event as a symbol of lighting the fire of faith and kicking off the campaign.
The Rev. David Bigsby of Gamaliel of Illinois explained the campaign’s goals: to strengthen congregations and institutions, increase participation in democracy and move one million people into jobs and increased economic dignity. Gamaliel is a network of 60 racially diverse, multi-faith community organizations in 17 states and has 32 groups participating in Fire of Faith campaigns throughout the United States. “Gamaliel has learned we can include everyone in the rebuilding of our world while increasing opportunity for all.”
Three local task forces of QCI shared how they are working to achieve that goal:
• Immigration Task Force — Rick Crowell of St. Mary Parish in Davenport shared information about his parish, which is about 75 percent Hispanic with standing-room only attendance at Mass each weekend.
He told stories about Hispanics/Latinos and issues they have run into. “Where is the justice?” he asked. One elderly woman was beaten and robbed. When the police showed up, their first question was not “‘How are you?’ or ‘Do you know who did this?’ It was ‘are you legal to be here?’ It shouldn’t matter if you are documented or undocumented,” Crowell said. “She is a human being.”
Crowell told about an undocumented worker who had been working in the area for 15 years. The man hired an (incompetent) lawyer to assist him with legal issues and wound up being sent back to Mexico. Where is the justice? “That lawyer is not in practice anymore.”
The Immigration Task Force continues to meet with the Davenport Police Department on various issues and has begun working with the Rock Island County Sheriff’s Department in Illinois. Crowell invites anyone interested in joining the Immigration Task Force to attend its next meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 27, at 5:30 p.m. at the Village Inn at Locust and Harrison streets in Davenport.
• Health Equity Task Force — “We are responding as a voice in the Quad Cities with health care,” Karen Metcalf said. The task force is watching implementation of the new federal health care program, which seeks to remove barriers to health coverage. But one barrier continues to be qualified interpreters for hospital patients. The task force is working with Genesis Health System to address the need for translators who can provide oral or written translation for the two dominant languages after English: Spanish and Vietnamese. Children of patients attempt to translate, which can lead to confusion and some interpreters are giving advice without a doctor’s consent. The group hopes to work with Trinity Regional Health System within the next year. The Health Equity Task Force’s next meeting is Thursday, Nov. 29, at 6:30 p.m. at the QCI office, 111 E. Third St., Suite 423 in Davenport.
• Transportation Task Force: The Rev. David Geenen of 15th Avenue Christian Church in Rock Island, Ill., said access to good paying jobs is essential for all. “Work to ensure that all have a place at the table.”
He referred to the future high speed railroad for the Quad-City region. “There is disparity in that many have been passed over for contracts. They have left out minorities and women.” The task force has worked to help people get training to obtain jobs associated with the railroad project. Together as a community, people can work to ensure that people receive training and are employed locally, he noted.
The Transportation Task Force’s next meeting is Wednesday, Nov. 14, at 10 a.m. at Church of Peace in Rock Island.
Kilgannon thanked the representatives for their reports and shared that several new pastors and individuals have joined Quad Cities Interfaith this year. Still, the organization struggles to generate income from dues and cannot rely on grants to fill in all the gaps. At its January strategic planning meeting, the group will discuss its strategies for 2013 and the next three years — including finances.
The Rev. Jay Wolin of Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Quad Cities closed the event with prayer, and participants lit a candle as a closing song was played.
For more information about Quad Cities Interfaith or any of its task forces, contact the QCI office at (563) 322-4910 or email@example.com.