We asked some faith leaders in the area two questions: n What are your hopes and prayers for the new year? n What, if you make one, is your New Year’s resolution?
The Rev. Bland Washington, pastor of Allen Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Baton Rouge
“My hope for the new year is that there would be more unity among the people of our communities, particularly the young people, that we can look forward to decreasing the crime. My hope and prayer is that this nation can come together both spiritually and politically. My prayer is that we would all look to God for the answers to these problems we are having and not rely on our own abilities and realize that these problems we are facing are much bigger than we can handle ourselves.”
“My New Year’s resolution is to be a better servant to people and to have more compassion for people and certainly to lift up the name of Christ.”
Bishop Michael Jarrell, Catholic Diocese of Lafayette
“When I look forward to a new year, I do like everyone else: I pray for peace and prosperity. When there are times of suffering and challenge, Christians turn to God and ask for the virtue of hope. We cannot give in to despair or fear. Life is never hopeless. In a spirit of humility we pray for the virtue of hope.”
Rabbi Mark Glickman, interim rabbi of Beth Shalom Synagogue, Baton Rouge
“My prayer for 2016 is that our world grows in its capacity to act out of compassion and justice rather than out of fear. At a time when millions of people wander the world in search of safe and secure homes, and when many people, including thousands in our own community, would turn them away for fear of their neighbors’ misdeeds, I pray that our nation and the world respond out of the humanity we share rather than out of the suspicions we harbor.
“My people know all too well what can happen when people harbor unjust and irrational fears toward those in search of safety, and this year, I pray that people everywhere let their capacity for kindness and courage outweigh their base tendencies toward suspicion, selfishness and chauvinism.”
Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey, Louisiana Conference of The United Methodist Church
“Looking toward 2016, United Methodists in Louisiana continue to focus on our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. We pray that our congregations throughout the state will continue to lead people to abundant lives in Christ, engaging communities locally and globally in significant ways. We as United Methodists will forge ahead to learn, live and tell the Gospel story, reaching out and drawing in people from all walks of life. We must have eyes to see, hearts to know and ears to hear the cries of the people, especially those crying for a more just world. We are clear that we must remain focused on the mission and not become distracted by the things of the world or, dare we say, the things of the church.”
The Rev. Jon Daniel Bennett, pastor of Belfair Church, Baton Rouge
“My prayer for 2016 is that our communities would be strengthened by healthier churches and families, and that God would equip me and other Christian leaders to spark that change.”
“My personal resolution is to spend more time in God’s word and in prayer, so that, by growing spiritually, I can be the example he desires me.”
The Right Rev. Morris K. Thompson Jr., Episcopal bishop of Louisiana
“The season of Advent has just passed. Advent is the beginning of the liturgical year for many Christians. I like to think of it as beginning again. I want to be a more hopeful person. The world is difficult and complex; however, every major religious tradition has a form of what Christians refer to as the ‘Great Commandment.’ Basically, it is to love God and neighbor and ourself.
“I am hopeful that our sights on Scripture can be broadened and see that the greater good is to love, not hate. Both attributes speak volumes about us individually. If we choose to love, then we choose to be loved, to live generously, which is a way to be a giver. If we choose not to love, then we live out of a place of fear and scarcity, afraid to see our neighbor as we see ourselves. I am hopeful we can learn to live more generously toward our neighbor.”
Apostle Alice S. Martin, pastor of Divine Grace Temple, Gonzales
“Divine Grace Temple’s prayers and hopes for 2016 are that we would draw closer to God and allow him to change us from the inside out. As we launch into the new year, we will renew our commitment to put God first, that is, to begin our day with God. We will seek his face to get his counsel and instructions to know how to carry out his will, his way. (Matthew 6:33)
“A new season is here, a new thing is springing up! (Isaiah 43:19). God wants to do even more dynamic things in our lives and manifest his love, power and anointing among his people.
“My prayer is that the body of Christ do more than have church or go to church. … We are called to become ‘the church,’ and that requires change. People want their lives to change for the better; however, it starts with a renewed mind (Romans 12:1-2) and a willing and obedient spirit (Isaiah 1:19).
“We all want the world to become a better place, but we have to become a better people through applying the word of God and yielding to the power of the Holy Spirit.
“It is an exciting time to be a part of the ‘new thing’ that God is doing to bring the body of Christ together. However, we must be willing to do our part so we can experience his glory like never before.”
The Rev. Tom Shepard, lead pastor of the Church at Addis
“My prayer is for our nation to regain what we have lost, which are the values that were once shaped around the dinner tables of the American home; a return to moral absolutes that convict men of our poor choices and drive us to be a better people; to really strive for peace on earth and really have intentional goodwill toward men.”
“My New Year’s resolution — to not ‘tell’ people I am a Christian but instead to live out my faith in such a way that it would cause people to ask me why I do what I do.”
Michael Acaldo, executive director of St. Vincent de Paul, Baton Rouge
“In what seems like a worldwide pandemic of cruelty, conflict and suffering, can any of us make a difference? I know that with God’s help we can!
“In 2016, I pray that each of us considers how we can make an impact in the world and that we all remember that one good deed can change a life, one person can make a difference and there is one emotion — love — that is more powerful than any other. Love is the answer. If we start with ourselves and live our faith fully, sharing God’s love with others, then, little by little, we really can change the world.
“At St. Vincent de Paul, we are daily witnesses to the transforming power of love. A child falls at our shelter, and a kiss from mom turns tears to laughter; a young man helps an elderly woman in our dining room, and her smile lights up the room; a guest leaves our pharmacy with a bagful of medicine and a new lease on life.
“Faith cannot exist without love, and we see, firsthand, the impact of both. Each of us can be a part of a global epidemic of love, a rising tsunami of kindness and compassion.”
“My New Year’s resolution is to do the best I can in being a part of a global effort to share God’s love by providing kindness and compassion to those in need.”
The Rev. Dr. René F. Brown, pastor of Mount Zion First Baptist Church and incoming moderator of the 4th District Baptist Association
“My hope and prayer for 2016 is that our city, communities, churches and citizens will work toward a more cross-centered relationship with each other. 1 Chronicles 7:14 says, ‘If my People…’ that small word ‘if’ suggests that we have a choice. Regardless of race, creed, color or religion, IF we would just chose to treat each other better, our city would be even better. My people speaks to a covenant people, not just a people of hopes and dreams but a people of promise. All we simply need to do is treat people the way you want to be treated.”
“I do not make New Year’s resolutions, but I try to be a better person, husband, father and pastor every year. I try to correct my mistakes.”