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UMV History

UMV was born in February 2004 from the spirit and enthusiasm emerging from the Annual Martin Luther King Community Choir performance.  Conceived of by Gwen Brown-Murray, Earlena Thevenin and Kathy & Paul Storfer, it was hoped that the power of music could be leveraged as a common language to unite people of different faiths and different spoken languages in our community.  Initially, its purpose was “to move forward towards the goal of “unity” through music” and its goal was “to share a cross-section of cultural and religious traditions through music”. 

After some efforts at assembling the critical mass of people, the first major event, held on Saturday September 17th 2005 to coincide with the 4th anniversary of the tragedy of September 11th 2001, was sponsored by the American Muslim Women Association, the Antioch Baptist Church of Bedford Hills, the First Presbyterian Church of Katonah, the Jewish Family Congregation of South Salem, and the Upper Westchester Muslim Society of Thornwood.  It was held at Fox Lane High School, and consisted of presentations by speakers on Jewish, Christian and Muslim approaches to prayer, followed by music from each faith and then a shared meal.

With an extremely positive response from all who attended, a series of other formal events were planned and carried out.  These included sports events (softball, which morphed into soccer, as the Muslims were more comfortable with the sport), music events (3 community sing events), and a thanksgiving-like dinner with shared food, approaches and customs. 

However, most importantly, what has emerged from this effort is a set of strong bonds that have begun to knit our community together, bit by bit.  In addition to formal activities, other random acts of interfaith understanding and community have taken place.  These have included discussion of a community “break-fast” at the common end of Ramadan / Yom Kippur, attendance and presentation of the Islamic perspective at the Jewish Family Congregation Shabbat service concerning Sarah and Hagar, attendance at Koran study by non-Islamic members of the community, interfaith services at Phelps Memorial Hospital and an interfaith Passover Seder. 

On October 7, 2007, the Croton Falls Presbyterian Church held a multi-cultural event to commemorate a nationwide Interfaith Fast for ending the war in Iraq which was held the following day.  At the event, Paul and Kathy Storfer of UMV met Deborah Moldow of the United Religions Initiative. Deborah was already meeting with friends of various faiths to discuss forming a Cooperation Circle, and asked whether Unity Made Visible might be interested in expanding beyond the Abrahamic faiths to become part of the global community of the URI. A joint meeting of the two groups was arranged, and everyone agreed that this would be a good step for both groups, giving form and history to the CC and empowering a new level of activity for Unity Made Visible. Our joyful work together to draft our purpose and dream has given us great hope for our future projects.  And, perhaps most importantly, we have now broadened the circle of recognition; as we now work together, we are no longer invisible parts of the scenery to each other.  And that is the beginning of real community.