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Category: Faith

Tomorrow: Route 1 Community Sunset Feast

Please join me, Mayor Patrick Wojahn, elected officials and other community leaders tomorrow at the (Ramadan) sunset feast (Iftar) at the College Park Community Center. It starts at 8 pm.

The first Route One Community Iftar was held last year at the Hyattsville Municipal Center. Last year’s Iftar feast was attended by approximately 100 guests. Through this event, the event organizers hope to expand the spirit of fellowship among the many religious communities and ethnic groups that make up Maryland’s Route One Corridor.

Due to the generous support of the event’s partners and hosts, this Iftar is free of charge, but advance registration is requested. To RSVP, email


Historic Church Aims to Expand

College Park AME Church

At tonight’s work session, the Council will discuss an application by one of  City’s historic Church to expand its current facility. This church can also get upgrades such as that LED Screen Church.

Built in 1920, the current Church is a single-story, 3,665-square foot, brick, “L”-shaped building.

Embry A.M.E. Church in Lakeland has applied for a special exception to build an one-story, 18 feet tall, approximately 1,603- square feet extension at the northwestern comer of the existing building. The proposed addition will contain offices, bathrooms, and other supporting rooms and will not increase the number of seats in the church’s sanctuary, nor the parking requirement for the church. A small shed along the southern property line is proposed to be removed. No parking is currently, or proposed to be, located on-site. In order to construct the addition, the church needs to obtain three things:

1. A special exception in order to have a church located on a lot size of less than one acre. The church is not actually proposing to increase in size and has long been located in the community at this location, but the construction of an addition triggers the requirement for a special exception. In order to be granted a special exception, generally the church must meet a setback requirement of 25 feet for each lot line, and the church currently does not meet this requirement. It only encroaches on the setback requirement on two sides, and the church is requesting a variance from this requirement on both sides

2. A departure from the number of required parking spaces. An on-street parking agreement, between the applicant and the City of College Park provides 50 on-street parking permits for the applicant’s employees and members. Four designated spaces along the Lakeland Road frontage of the site currently provide handicapped parking for the church. The Church currently has 28 seats and the proposed addition does not contemplate an increase in the number of seats in the church’s sanctuary and would not increase the amount of traffic generated by the church.

3. Alternative compliance with the requirements of the Prince George’s Landscape Manual. The Landscape Manual requires certain buffering requirements from adjacent properties, which the church is unable to meet due to the lot size. Instead, the church has developed a landscape plan with 10-foot buffers and a number of local and native trees.

The application is scheduled to go before the Prince George’s County Planning Board on May 31,2012, at which time the Planning Board will determine whether it will hold a hearing or transmit the application directly to the Zoning Hearing Examiner (ZHE). Upon transmittal to the ZHE, the ZHE will schedule a hearing and make a recommendation to the Prince George’s County Council for final review and action.

Staff is recommending that the Council support approval of Special Exception request with a few minor conditions relating to the architectural elevations.

The staff is also recommending that the Council support approval of the departure from the number of required parking spaces and alternative compliance to the requirements of the Landscape Manual.

After its Defeat, NCP’s Wojahn Wants to See Gay Marriage Bill ‘a Priority’ in 2012

Set to Change.. Definition of traditional marriage in MD

North College Park (District 1) council member Patrick Wojahn wants to see gay marriage bill a priority of Gov. O’Malley administration in 2012.

Council member Wojahn is the Chairman of Equality Maryland, Maryland’s largest LGBT (lesbian, gay bi-sexual and trans gender) community group.

Mr. Wojahn’s comments came a day before last Friday, when Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley says his office will work harder to get a same-sex marriage bill passed. .

Earlier this year, the bill passed the Senate before dying in the House, after at least two House Democrats withdrew their support and party leaders appeared unable to gain the 71 votes needed for passage. Leaders estimated at the time they had about 68 firm supporters. Gay Marriage supporters in College Park lobbied heavily to help pass the bill in Senate.

Mr. O’Malley — who before becoming governor said he favored civil unions and believed marriage was intended for a man and woman — said Friday his views have evolved beyond those initially instilled by his Catholic upbringing.

Mary Ellen Russell, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference, said her organization greeted the governor’s announcement with “great disappointment” and said the group would lobby against such a bill.

“We continue to urge members of the Maryland General Assembly not to allow this issue to be driven by partisan politics, and to give full and fair consideration to the legitimate reasons why our state should maintain its recognition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman,” she said according to the Washington Times.

A group of 35 Maryland clergy members expressed disappointment with the governor’s decision. They pointed out that Maryland voters would have a chance to petition any bill that passes to referendum in November 2012, as opponents of unrelated legislation to allow in-state tuition for illegal immigrants have done.

“We’re ready for the fight and have no doubt that marriage will remain between one man and one woman,” the group said.

State Sen. Nancy Jacobs, the Senate minority leader, said she believes the majority of state residents oppose same-sex marriage.
“I oppose legalizing gay marriage in Maryland and will fight vehemently against Governor O’Malley’s initiative to pass this legislation,” Jacobs, R-Harford, said in a statement.

Celebrating Faith in College Park

On the Maryland day, last Saturday, the UMD Chaplains and the Faith Community Network of College Park sponsored a concert at Memorial Chapel.   The event was a community concert sponsored by the UMD Chaplains and the Faith Community Network of College Park.  The event was co sponsored by the Baptist, Episcopalian and Catholic SGA recognized groups and featured performances of various choirs from on and off campus ministries.

The diverse showcase included performances from UMD catholic student center, UMD’s Gospel Choir, UMD’s Baptist Collegiate Ministries, University Baptist Church, Chinese Bible Church, Maranatha Fellowship, Muslim Chaplaincy, College Park United Methodist Church, First Baptist Church of College Park, New Leaf Church of College Park, Embry African Methodist Episcopal Church, College Park Wesleyan Church, and the College Park Youth Choir’s Vocetti group.

The program’s purpose was to highlight connections between faith-based organizations on campus at the University of Maryland, and the off-campus faith-based organizations.  This concert brought people of all different backgrounds and faiths together to build relationships between people in our city community.

(Photos courtesy of Sam Brown / Emily Apatov)

On Same-Sex Marriage Bill, ‘Heavy Lobbying’ Tips the Balance, WaPo Says

A change in tradition - definition of marriage in MD

For generations, marriage has been known as a legal contract between a man and a woman to Maryland’s millions of residents.

Heavy lobbying by a group of local activists has all but certainly changed that traditional definition of marriage last week, when one single lawmaker, Senator Jim Rosapepe (D) threw his support for a bill in Maryland legislature.

The support of Senator Rosapepe, who also represents College Park, makes the number of State Senators supporting the same-sex marriage bill (SB611) to 24, a much crucial number when it comes to the votes needed to pass the bill in the Senate.

Out of 47 Senators, 21 have publicly opposed the bill. (Click here to see where the Senators stand.)

Senators will vote on the bill as early as this week, after a Senate panel sent the bill to the Senate floor with a 7-4 vote last week. After the bill passes in the Senate, the bill will be voted by the States House of Delegates, where the bill is expected to face a lesser resistance. Governor O’Mally has promised that he will sign the bill to law if it comes to his table.

Local courts could begin performing same-sex ceremonies as early as October in Maryland.

The same-sex mariage bill was introduced early this year after Democratic Party captured two additional Senate seats in the last November election.

Speaking of lobbying, the Washington Post says: “Shortly after the [Senate] committee vote, Sen. James C. Rosapepe (D-Prince George’s)issued a statement endorsing the legislation. Rosapepe, whose district includes College Park, has been heavily lobbied by university students and others who support the bill.”

A group of lobbyists from the University of Maryland handed over some 450 letters of support to Senator Rosapepe, as part of what they call the “Tell Jim” campaign.

Reflecting on the meeting with  Senator Rosapepe,  College Democrats President Daniel Borman later talked about what he saw firsthand the impact of their lobbying effort. “As I said how many letters I had, [Rosapepe] said ‘Wow,’ and then I handed him the letters,” said Borman. “I do think it made a difference that so many letters were sent by students. It’s hard for him to ignore the 440 letters in his hands.”

College Park’s first openly gay council member (Dist 1) Patrick Wojahn, spoke at UMD’s Student Government Association meeting, advocating their support for the bill. Mr. Wojahn’s collegue in district 4, council member Marcus Afzali was also present at the forum and spoke in support of the proposed bill.

Students, Police Pray to Keep UMD Campus Calm

Unlike last year, College Park downtown this year has been spared from yet another embarrassing post game riot.

Some may point to the UMD’s loss  to Duke to explain why the riot did not happen; others may attribute this to the organized efforts like “Beat the Duke” campaign by UMD SGA and others in the campus.

Yet, others may say it’s the much publicized prayer rally by the students and the local police departments that may have prevented the cahoatic post-game riot.

Regardless of the reason(s), the big news we ought to celebrate is the fact that downtown was quiet and calm after the game.

The prayer service at the West Chapel was attended by a number of law enforcement officers, plus a few students and local residents.

UMD police Chief Mr. David Mitchel and local PG Police Chief Maj. Liberati was also present at the service.

Among the students who participated in this event at Memorial Chapel last week were Senior Kenny Theodos of UMD’s Methodist Campus Ministry, Katie Furlong of a campus organization called The Gathering, and Adam Norris of UMD Intervarsity Christian Fellowship.

Council member Marcus Afzali also spoke at the event.

Students liked that the event was well-organized, and that police officials shared their faith and time in prayer with other members of the campus community.” – said one local student active in local faith community group.

Prayer, Campaign Sought to Avoid Post-Game Riot

UMD riot, 2010

With the UMD vs Duke game only one day away, the students, police, City officials and religious leaders have been very busy to avoid the repeat of 2010 riot that earned bad reputation for our college town. More than a dozen students were arrested during the riot and the county police was accused of using excessive force.

Students, UMD Chaplain Rev. Kim Capps, Rev. George Wilkinson of Holy Redeemer Roman Catholic Church, Maj. Liberati of P.G. Police & UMD’s Public Safety Chief David Mitchell will gather for a joint prayer rally tomorrow, Feb. 1 @ 7 – 8 PM at the West Chapel (in Memorial Chapel). The rally has been billed as a gathering to pray for the “Safety and Sportsmanship and seek God’s blessings for our city before the UMD v. Duke home basketball game on Feb. 2nd”.

In the mean time, the UMD students have been planning to observe a “Beat the Duke Week” to allow students to celebrate the outcome of the game in a constructive manner, should the UMD wins against Duke.

Additionally, a pep rallywill be held tomorrow at 6 p.m. in Comcast Center, said Student Government Association President Steve Glickman.

Mayor Andrew Fellows said he likes the university’s proactive approach, “instead of throwing up our hands and saying there is nothing we can do.”

City’s Faith Groups Unite Against Hate

Yesterday was 9/11 anniversary – the day when our nation mourned the loss of  innocent American lives in terrorist attacks 9 years ago. Yet, the day’s solemn mourning was marred by the  hate filled messages of vengeance from some to desecrate sacred texts.

I was happy to see that the City’s faith groups came together in releasing a statement yesterday denouncing the threat of such hate filled acts. The group, called The Faith Community Network, is fairly a young one, but has already brought a number of City’s Churches and place of worships under its belt. I’ve been to a few events they organized in the recent past, such as the stream cleanup in last April and more recently a summer picnic. Rev. Dr. James B. Vigen of the Hope Luthern Church is the lead organizer of the group.

You can read the complete news release here on the network’s website. Here is an excerpt from that statement:

COLLEGE PARK, MD.–The Faith Community Network of College Park is committed to fostering good relations and understanding between all houses of worship in our greater College Park area and throughout the nation. We also work cooperatively together to further the common good of all our citizens. For this reason, we cannot, in conscience, remain silent in the face of the turmoil that has embroiled our nation because of the misguided threat by one religious group to desecrate the sacred Scriptures of the Muslim community. We deplore all such intolerant actions and are gratified that, for the time being at least, the religious community in Florida has responded to the worldwide outcry and has announced a suspension of their plans. This result is, we believe, an answer to the fervent prayers of many people. We continue to pray that, as a result of the talks in New York next week, a final decision to renounce any further plans to burn the Koran will be announced.

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