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Revernd Phyllis J. Leopold

Executive Director: The Association of Religious Communities.

Article published in the Danbury News Times, February 11. 2017.

"Rally planned for Sunday to 'build briges' in the community"

Sunday, February 26, 2017

DANBURY - Religious leaders and community activists will gather downtown Sunday to spread a message of love and togetherness in a deeply divided nation.

The Association of Religious Communities (ARC) is sponsoring a Humanity Rally at 2 p.m. at the Central Christian Church to hear from people from different walks of life and promote social justice.

The Rev. Phyllis J. Leopold, executive director of ARC, got the idea for the rally after heard a sermon at Central Christian Church a few days before the presidential election. She was inspired by the sermon's message that no matter who won, there would be work to do afterward.

Leopold and Stephen Tickner, pastor at Central Christian Church and an ARC board member, began planning to do just that. But the urgency increased as reports surfaced of swastikas appearing in the Danbury area, including one painted on the home of an ARC board member. Later, after President Donald Trump's executive order banning refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries, four people close to ARC were detained at the airport.

Leopold said these incidents made many in the Muslim and immigrant communities afraid.

"We want to overcome some of that fear and let the community know there is goodness in the world, as well as right here in our towns," she said.

Leopold said the rally is meant to build and reinforce bridges:

"We just want for people of all ages to know that they're not in their own corners," she said. "That should something happen - let's just say for example to a Muslim person - the Ecuadorians are going to be there for them, and vice versa. It's really a rally with a concentration of trying to turn fear into hope, particularly for greater Danbury people who are Muslims or immigrants."

Although the rally grew out of the division and anger from the election, Rev. Bryn Smallwood-Garcia, an ARC board member and senior pastor at the Congregational Church of Brookfield, said the event is not a protest against Trump specifically.

"This is not an anti-Donald Trump rally," she said. "This is a bring-people-together [rally] to share their thoughts and stories and build some bridges, especially among faith communities."

The event will begin outside with speeches from State Rep. David Arconti; Wilson Hernandez, an ARC board member and leader in the Danbury Ecuadorian community; Mariam Khan, the daughter of the president of the Baitul Mukarram Masjid; Rabbi Nelly Altenburger of the Congregation B'nai Israel; and high-school student Sarah Bryant.

Attendees will then move inside for a "social justice fair" with materials for how to get involved in programs to help vulnerable communities. The fair will give people a chance to get to know one another and hear different perspectives, organizers said.

"When we have a chance to sit and talk and really hear from one another, people start to be real people and not labels," Smallwood-Garcia said.

Tickner said this will allow people to build new relationships and remind them to love their neighbor.

"I hope that Muslim groups and Christian groups can get together and talk to each other on a human level and see how we are similar," he said. "Just learn about each other's journeys in life, how.... [immigrants] can share their stories and get beyond the stereotypes."

Smallwood-Garcia said she hopes this makes more of a difference than a traditional march would.

"We need not just loud people standing up for justice, but we need quiet people sitting down for justice," she said. "And that's kind of what humanity is all about, that we recognize our shared humanity."

Smallwood-Garcia said these conversations will not stop at the rally. ARC is planning a series of events at different places of worship, including at interfaith multicultural potluck at her church on March 5.

"We need a chance for human beings to talk, instead of talking heads to shout at us," she said.




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Association of Religious Communities

&

CT Against Gun Violence


Statement of Concern

As individuals we believe people of faith unite in the belief that the love of humankind is not an option or privilege but is of paramount obligation for the concerned person.

Collectively:

  • We condemn the hate-filled mass shooting at the Orlando Nightclub
  • We stand against killing or violence against any community including LGBT
  • We strive for the day bigotry has no place to breathe and common sense gun laws prevail

Joe Walkovich
President, ARC Board
Michael Marcus
Vice President, ARC Board
Jim Maurer
Secretary, ARC Board
Willie Johnson
Treasurer, ARC Board
Rev. Dr. Joseph Kraskinski
Member, ARC Board
Rev. Pat Nicholas
Member, ARC Board
Ven. Wisdom Sakya
Member, ARC Board
Rabbi Jon Haddon
Member, ARC Board
Dr. William Glass
Member, ARC Board
Rev. Bryn Smallwood Garcia
Member, ARC Board
Shazeeda Khan
Member, ARC Board
Wilson Hernandez
Member, ARC Board

Ron Pinciaro, Executive Director, CT Against Gun Violence
Rev. Phyllis J. Leopold, Executive Director, Association of Religious Communities


Danbury Law Day - May 6th, 2016


The Law Day awards ceremony was held at the Danbury County Court House on White Street. Friday May 6, 2016.

The Rev. Phyllis "P.J." Leopold, executive director of the Association of Religious Communities (ARC), received the Liberty Bell Award, which is given annually to somebody who is a not a lawyer but has contributed significantly to the legal community.


Rev. PJ Leopold




















Rev. Phyllis Leopold and Neil Marcus


Rev. PJ Leopold




















ARC's Law Day awards group picture.

ARC staff, from the left: Emily Grillo, Rev. P.J. Leopold, Lise Marcus, Elke Sweeny and     guest Don Lavallee.





Jo Gabriele

The Association of Religious Communities.

Jo Gabriele celebrates her 5th year on the staff of the Association of Religioun Communities (ARC).

"I can't believe I have been at The Association of Religious Communities (ARC) for 5 years now. By far, they have been a real highlight in my 45+ year working career.

"Thank you to PJ Leopold for presenting me with the opportunity to work for such an amazing organization that serves more than 8,000 people a year. Thank you for the lifelong friendships I have made, the wonderful co-workers I have had the pleasure to work with, the phenomenal volunteers who support our organization and most of all for the privilege of being able to serve God's most vulnerable children in our community. It sometimes is a wild ride, but I would not trade it for anything!"