By JOHN GRIEP Executive Editor

OXFORD — Nearly 200 people gathered Friday evening, Aug. 18, at Oxford Park in a sign of community unity and solidarity against hatred.

“Shabbat in the Park: A Worship Service of Community Unity” was organized by Rabbi Peter Hyman of Temple B’Nai Israel and other clergy leaders as a response to the hate and violence last weekend in Charlottesville, Va.

Participating organizations included the Islamic Center of Delmarva, Talbot Association of Clergy and Laity, NAACP, the Oaks of Mamre Graduate Center, the Frederick Douglass Honor Society, Christ Church (Kent Island), Christ Church (St. Michaels), St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Easton, P.E.A.C.E., Talbot Rising, TriLife Christian Center and the Chesapeake Multicultural Resource Center.

The service included prayers, songs, readings and a candle lighting.

“Grant us courage in our faight. Strenghten our conviction that through us the world can be transformed: a world where neighbors lift not sword against neighbor, nor study war anymore. A world where the shining beauty of Your creation is no longer eclipsed by the specter of violence and the blinding stain of bloodshed.”

Those attending read along with portions of the service:

“In community, we are of one body; each has a part to play. When one fails or falters, we all suffer.

“In community, we become whole ... but there is always room for growth.

“In community, we help another who falters. We have empathy for another’s suffering. A trouble shared is a trouble cut in half.

“Community means surrounding ourselves with people who will build us up and not put us down, who will encourage us and not pay lip service to our wounds.

“Community engenders caring.

“In true community, we appreciate people of different backgrounds, embracing their differences; recognizing that diversity makes us richer, stronger and better people.”

The Right Rev. Joel Marcus Johnson, president of The Oaks of Mamre Graduate Center, read President George Washington’s Aug. 21, 1790, letter to the Hebrew Congregation at Newport.

Washington wrote:

“It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, only requires that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.”

The Rev. Nancy Sajda of the Talbot Association of Clergy and Laity read “We Will Not Yield,” by Alden Solovy.

The poem includes these lines:

“Today, I am neither Democrat nor Republican, Neither left nor right nor center.

“I am an American,

“Born to a legacy of truth and justice, Born to a legacy of freedom and equality.

“Today, I am a patriot Who will not yield this nation to hate.

“Not to neo-Nazis. Not to thugs self-styled as militia.

“Not to slogans or chants. Not to gestures or flags.

“Not to threats and not to violence.

The Rev. Nancy Sajda of the Talbot Association of Clergy and Laity read “We Will Not Yield,” by Alden Solovy.

The poem includes these lines:

“Today, I am neither Democrat nor Republican, Neither left nor right nor center.

“I am an American,

“Born to a legacy of truth and justice, Born to a legacy of freedom and equality.

“Today, I am a patriot Who will not yield this nation to hate.

“Not to neo-Nazis. Not to thugs self-styled as militia.

“Not to slogans or chants. Not to gestures or flags.

“Not to threats and not to violence.

During the Misheberach (a prayer for healing), Rabbi Hyman said, “May the One who blessed our ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Leah and Rachel bless all those who await Your healing touch. May the Blessed Holy One be filled with mercy, heal and strengthen them, sending them complete healing of body and spirit, along with all those in Israel who are ill.”

Hyman also asked for healing for those affected by the violence in Charlottesville, including the families, friends and colleagues of Heather Heyer, who was killed when a car was driven into a crowd of counter-demonstrators, and Lt. H. Jay Cullen and trooper-pilot Berke M.M. Bates, two Virginia State Police troopers who died in a helicopter crash after monitoring the events in Charlottesville.

Healing also was sought from the hatred and racism, “from the pernicious actions and notions” seen in Charlottesville.

“This is not the way the world should be,” Hyman said.

Other speakers Friday night included the Rev. Mark Delcuze of Christ Church Kent Island and the Rev. Dr. William Wallace Sr.

Among the crowd were several officials, including Michael Pullen, a Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in the First District; Sen. Addie Eckardt, R-37-Mid-Shore; Del. Johnny Mautz, R-37B-Talbot; Easton Mayor Bob Willey, Talbot County Manager Andy Hollis; and Talbot County Deputy State’s Attorney Ellen Barry Grunden.

Near the end of the ceremony, Grunden led the group in singing “God Bless America,” singing the first verse before the crowd joined in on the chorus.

Hyman last week called the events of Charlottesville “a reprehensible circumstance” that goes “against everything we believe and have been taught the United States of America is about.

He also said the Nazi symbols, chants and salutes were “an affront to veterans everywhere that fought and served in World War II.”

“It is up to faith community leaders, our government officials and the community to make a stand in opposition,” Hyman said. “To remain silent in the face of this would speak volumes louder than anything else. This is our responsibility.”

“We have a responsibility as faith leaders in our community to hold a mirror up and to live up to our most deeply held values,” the Rev. Sue Browning of Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Easton said last week. “We need to look at what unites us and helps us to create a community in which we want to live in.”

On Saturday, Aug. 12, street brawls broke out in Charlottesville between alt-right protesters, many of whom carried shields, weapons, and Nazi and Confederate battle flags, and counterdemonstrators. Both groups had permits to protest.

Staff writer Denae Spiering contributed to this story.