This profile was last updated in 2014
The Lexington Interfaith Clergy Association (LICA) is comprised of clergy and religious leaders from most of the faith communities in the Lexington area, including representatives from Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam and Unitarian Universalism. The group’s main focus is promoting comraderie and fellowship among the religious leaders in the community, through a series of monthly lunch and dialogue meetings.
The Lexington Interfaith Clergy Association has existed at least since 1971. (Current members were not certain of the actual “founding” date of the organization.) There was also a lay interfaith group in Lexington for a while, but the group was inactive by 1980, according to Helen Cohen. As the diversity of Lexington has grown over the years, LICA has grown and changed with it. What was once a Jewish-Christian organization now includes representatives from Islam and Hinduism as well. Rev. Brain mentioned that this involvement of non-Judeo-Christian traditions has come primarily since Sept. 11, 2001. After Sept. 11, the group made closer contacts with the Muslim communities in the area and a Hindu member joined the council (who is actually a member of the New England Hindu Temple, located in Ashland, not Lexington). With this increasing diversity comes increasing sensitivity to differences within the group and the variety of faiths represented. For instance, the group previously sponsored a Good Friday service every year, but in 2004, the group made the decision to continue an ecumenical service among the Christian and Unitarian Universalist communities, but to stop discussing the service in interfaith meetings and to stop paying the organist for the Good Friday service with interfaith funds.
Representatives from Christianity (Baptist, Catholic, Community of Christ, Covenant, Methodist, Mormon, nondenominational evangelical and Society of Friends (Quaker)), Hinduism, Judaism (Reform and Conservative), Islam and Unitarian Universalism.
Interfaith Solidarity Through Shared Meals, Dialogue, Worship and Action
The solidarity among the clergy in Lexington is largely a result of LICA’s monthly lunch meetings, where members meet informally for conversation over lunch and then attend a more structured meeting of the group that usually includes a dialogue or presentation from a member about his or her faith. Rev. Judy Brain, pastor of Pilgrim United Church of Christ, said the relationship that exists among the Lexington clergy is a good base for addressing crises such as Sept. 11 and hate crimes. The group also leads worship services at the local retirement center. The group sponsors public events as well. Most prominent is the town’s annual interfaith Thanksgiving service, which includes readings from the religious traditions of those participating. Other events have included lectures (for instance, Pluralism Project Director Diana Eck spoke on the work of the project), panel discussions (on topics ranging from religious views of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues to Mel Gibson’s 2004 movie “The Passion of the Christ”), and potluck dinners (to raise money for Habitat for Humanity, for example). LICA also initiated a town-wide project to build two houses for Habitat for Humanity. Rev. Brain said this initiative was effective in bringing the town together and creating links with urban communities.
‘Meeting Ground’ for Tough Discussions
As an entity representing the community’s religious leaders, LICA has been instrumental in addressing some controversies in the town over religion’s role in the public square. One incident members of the group remembered was a dispute over whether a creche (or Christmas manger scene) should be displayed on the town green in December. According to Helen Cohen, LICA had recommended that the creche not be displayed on the green as far back as 1971, but the issue was never resolved. Years later, the issue resurfaced and it became clear that this issue was deeply divisive in the town, even among members of LICA. To respond to this situation, LICA created a group of about eight members of the community, representing a diversity of viewpoints on the topic, to discuss the issue. The group was called “Meeting Ground” and met for three months, with the direction of a discussion facilitator, funded by LICA. The group could reach no agreement except to shorten the length of time of the creche display from five weeks to just over two weeks. Since there was no consensus, the Lexington Board of Selectmen made their own decision, decreeing that no displays of any kind could be left overnight on the green.