‘Children of Abraham’ Documentary, produced in Warren, March 3 at Struthers

This article originally appeared in the Warren Times Observer

By STACEY GROSS (sgross@timesobserver.com)

“A Jewish businessman, a Christian priest, and an American Muslim…”

It sounds like the beginning of a joke. But it’s not. It’s the beginning of the tagline for a film produced in Warren County by Glarner Group Production Studio, and it ends “…coexisting in peace.”

Glarner said that he and Mark Robinault made the 45-minute documentary over the course of two years. It’s been shown most recently at the Asian World Film Festival, Glarner said. And now, it’s going to be shown in Warren.

The three men interviewed in the movie are Timothy Dyer, Sam Qadri, and Harvey Stone. All are local or semi-local. Qadri teaches at the Jamestown High school and also is a professor of Muslim Studies at JCC. Dyer is a local priest and Stone is a local businessman.

Glarner said he was sitting at Trinity Episcopal Church in Warren one day listening to Dyer talk about the latest Children of Abraham event – an event designed to introduce those unfamiliar with it to the concept of interfaith discussions – and he wanted to know more.

“Why is he doing this,” Glarner said he found himself wondering as he listened to Dyer talk. Through subsequent conversations, however, Glarner said he  understood perfectly what the goal of the Children of Abraham Project hope to achieve.

Interfaith conversations, said Glarner, are “pretty relevant to everyone right now.” And this, Glarner added, “is the narrative we need to hear.” As opposed to the tendency to divide and fracture people based on differences in belief and lifestyle, the goal of Children of Abraham and of the film is to get people both recognizing they are alike, and also seek to find ways to make connections with those of different faiths. “If there’s going to be some kind of lasting peace in the world then how we’re going to get there is through conversations like these and through a loving heart.”

Glarner said the screening, to be held on Saturday, March 3 at the Struther’s Library Theatre from 7 to 9 p.m. will be both an opportunity to expose a local audience to the film, but also a fundraiser for the Music Conservatory, of which Glarner has been a part since it began. Admission to the film is $10 per person and includes an introduction by Glarner who will talk more about what compelled him to make a documentary based on the interfaith discussions of three local men.

Congratulations, Father Timothy!

Congratulations to Father Timothy Dyer of the Episcopal Mission of Warren County on his ordination this past Sunday, December 11th!

Photos of the ordination can be seen below, and full video of the service is available here.  God’s blessing on your ministry, Fr. Timothy.

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Shalom, Salam, Peace.

This article appeared in the Corry Journal on 3.28.16 and is written by Jordan M. Schrecengost.

The message of peace is universal.

That’s one of the topics that will be discussed at an upcoming interfaith initiative held in Corry by a local deacon.

16969_100564616643449_761487_n“I think the message of love and peace is important, especially when the rhetoric of hate and fear echo so loudly in our world today,” said Deacon Timothy Dyer, who is a clergy associate for pastoral ministries at Trinity Memorial Episcopal Church in Warren and St. Francis of Assisi Episcopal Church in Youngsville.

Dyer is the founder of an interfaith initiative known as “The Children of Abraham Project,” which will be making its debut in the city of Corry this weekend.

The Children of Abraham Project will be holding its sixth event since the project’s inception in 2012. The event will be held at the Emmanuel Episcopal Church, 327 N. Center St., Corry, on April 2 from 1 to 4 p.m. 

There is no cost to attend the event.

“This interfaith initiative is designed to bring Judaism, Islam and Christianity together in open and honest dialogue to discuss their differences, and celebrate their similarities,” Dyer said. “It is our hope that in offering this event to our community that we may bring change and reconciliation to the world — one mind, one heart at a time because we are one human family.”

After the first few events, The Children of Abraham Project began to gain a reputation with the Episcopal Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania, Dyer said. That led to members of the Emmanuel church approaching Dyer to ask if he could bring the program to Corry. Dyer hoped to hold an event in Corry sooner, but is excited it’s finally happening.

“I wasn’t able to bring the program there as soon as I would have liked, but I am so happy that we were finally able to make the necessary arrangements,” he said. “I honestly believe that we need to hear the message of love and peace over the rhetoric of fear and hate.”

Dyer, who is the event’s Christian representative, will be one of three speakers at the event in Corry. He will be joined by fellow speakers Sam Qadri and Harvey Stone, who will speak on behalf of the religions of Islam and Judaism, respectively.

Qadri is the public relations director at the Jamestown Islamic Society. He’s also a teacher at Jamestown High School and an adjunct professor at the Jamestown Business College. Dyer said Stone is a business owner in Warren and has shared his faith and traditions with many people in Warren area over the years.

The goal of the event is not to convert anyone, Dyer added.

“We come together not to proselytize or convert anyone,” he said. “We come together to listen, to learn, to understand and to hopefully counteract the bigotry, hatred and stereotypical images that inundate our society.”

The Children of Abraham event will begin with an English prayer by Dyer, an Arabic prayer by Qadri and a Hebrew prayer by Stone.

“I will also give a brief history of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar, and demonstrate how all three religions share a common ancestor,” Dyer said. “I will then speak to what the purpose of interfaith dialogue is about and what we hope to achieve — understanding, peace and compassion for our fellow human beings. I will finally show how the golden rule of loving your neighbor is prevalent in all three religions.”

Stone will give a history of the Jewish people’s experiences throughout history and how they have contributed to the advancement of the world. Qadri will speak about the history of Islam to generate a basic understanding of its tenets and beliefs, and will highlight what it shares in common with Judaism and Christianity. He will also share stories of discrimination that he has witnessed and speak to the relevance of people’s perceptions.

The Children of Abraham event will conclude with a question and answer segment with all three speakers.

“No question will be out of bounds; any and all questions are welcomed,” Dyer said. “I will admit that many of the questions are directed at Sam because many of their concerns are around understanding Islam.”

Qadri said they’re there to answer the hard questions, though.

“Racism, prejudice and violence are all-too-common in our society,” Dyer said. “Finding love and peace within our communities cannot be successful without each of us working together to counteract hatred, injustice and the stereotypical images that permeate our society.”

The interfaith initiative was developed in the summer of 2011 after Dyer studied the Episcopal Baptismal Covenant.

“While each question struck a chord within me, there were two that particularly stood out,” he said. “Those questions were: Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself? Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?”

The first Children of Abraham event was held one year later at St. Francis in Youngsville.

“Our first event was very similar to the event we will have in Corry,” Dyer said. “I explained how The Children of Abraham Project came to be and was inspired by my need to answer questions in the Episcopal Baptismal Covenant.”

Dyer said he chose the name because Judaism, Islam and Christianity all trace their history back to Abraham.

“We are considered the three Abrahamic faiths; thus we are children of Abraham,” he said. “From Abraham came Isaac, from whom the Hebrew line and eventually Christianity came, and Ishmael, from whom Islam traces its history.”

Dyer also explained that the word “project” is in the Children of Abraham name because it’s a continuous effort to eradicate the stereotypes and stigmas surrounding different religions of the world.

“It is a project because this is an educational initiative that should not end; it’s a continual effort,” Dyer said. “It’s a collaboration that brings the three major religions of the world together for a common goal: Peace, understanding and love.”

The Rev. Tim Dyer is Kintsugi

This is the third and final installment in a three part series highlighting the stories of our three seminarians. Click here to read stories about the other two seminarians.

kintsugiKintsugi is the ancient Japanese art of repairing broken pottery using lacquer and gold. The broken pieces are soldered back together with gold in the seams. The philosophy is that the pottery’s brokenness is part of its history and does not need to be hidden. Many regard the finished product as even more beautiful than the original. Something broken is remade into something stunning and useful.

The Rev. Tim Dyer considers himself a piece of Kintsugi. He has been broken both emotionally and physically and has been remade. Though he is shy about talking about his strengths, there is gold in his seams. Rightfully so, he attributes that remaking and the gold to God’s handiwork.

The story of Tim’s accident and near death is no secret [Click here to read an account by Vanessa Butler reprinted from “The Forward,” September of 2013]. Tim was literally broken in several places after a deer hit his car in November 2012. He spent 6 months in the hospital and at one point was not expected to live. He has been through a long road to recovery and in some ways is still broken: “I used to be able to bench press 450 pounds.” Being strong and physical was one of the ways Tim defined his identity before the accident. He is still relearning how to do things and is limited. Now, over three years after his accident, he can barely wield a shovel before his partially healed wrist swells up and keeps him from doing physical labor. He has struggled with losing that part of his identity.

The story of Tim’s brokenness that many don’t know is his ‘prodigal son’ experience. As a very young man Tim joined the Marines and was stationed in Spain. While there, he had a challenging relationship with his stateside girlfriend that ended up in a very emotional breakup. In response, Tim stayed drunk for two years and blamed God for his hurt. He couldn’t get leave to come home so it was easier to act like home wasn’t there and he isolated himself from his family. He was later transferred to California and, while there, started using crystal meth. When he realized it was killing him, he quit but at that point was too embarrassed to go home.

Unbeknownst to Tim, his father had been praying that Tim would return home and return to God. God answers prayers in mysterious ways sometimes. Tim got a call in 1999 that his father had a heart attack (which he survived). Tim knew it was time to come home.

Since then, God has soldered Tim’s broken pieces back together. It started with his family accepting him back without question. Tim then found his life partner, Noreen, and together they started going to church. Tim started feeling acceptance there as well and started getting involved by being a lay reader and a lay minister. Tim later figured out that the turning point for him was when he forgave himself and turned back to God: “God had forgiven me a long time before.”

16969_100564616643449_761487_nTim then started discerning a call to the priesthood and was guided in that decision by Deacon Michael Bauschard: “His dedication was an incredible example to me.” Tim officially entered the ordination process in 2007. He took local courses and, after the hiatus due to his accident, completed his bachelor’s degree in the summer of 2014. He was ordained to the transitional diaconate, surrounded by family, friends and supporters from across the diocese, in February 2015. This past June, Tim began his Masters in Divinity studies in the Church Divinity School of the Pacific’s low residence program and expects to graduate in 2019.

God has soldered Tim back physically as well. No, Tim may not be able to bench press that 450 pounds anymore, but he and Noreen are a team. What one could do before, two can now do even better. They get everything done together. Tim says that you don’t really know him completely until you get to know Noreen.

God has certainly reinforced Tim’s broken pieces with gold. Tim sees his story of brokenness as what has made him who he is. He is able to use it to relate to others. He has known what is like to be isolated from God and family and then to come back and is able to guide others through similar experiences. Tim feels called to be in relationship with people and to serve at a small local church. The way Tim identifies himself is no longer as someone with physical strength, but, rather, as a child of God. “When we place our identity in Jesus Christ we become secure because Christ is always with us.”

Tim lives out that identity through his service to others. He is a Clergy Associate for Pastoral Ministries and sees part of his ministry as helping to facilitate a different understanding of what pastoral care is about. He says, “the worship we do on Sundays is practice for what we are to take into the world and share, but we need to make sure we share that with each other too.” Tim is also the founder of the “The Children of Abraham Project,” through which he helps bring Christians, Muslims and Jews together to understand each other. Tim truly believes in living out this question from the Baptismal covenant: “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?”

Tim is also grateful for all the support and love he has received from his community at the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania. He is thankful for all the people who have taught him, guided him and supported him through his accident and ordination process. “Interacting with the body of Christ, my community, pushes my boundaries and forms me. I look forward to more of that.”

You can find the Rev. Tim Dyer, golden seams and all, at Trinity Memorial Episcopal Church in Warren and St. Francis Episcopal Church in Youngsville serving as a deacon. He is there giving back what has been given to him and helping to solder broken pieces back together.

Julien Goulet, Assistant to Communications and Administration, Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania

Member of St. Francis experiences the power of Christian community

This is reprinted from “The Forward” September 2013.

Imagine waking up in an ambulance, with no awareness of what has happened or where your family is. While the paramedic assures you there is a machine helping you breathe, you feel like you are slowly suffocating. Panic and fear are rapidly mounting. Finally, someone attaches an oxygen bag to the apparatus in your throat and begins to pump air into your lungs. As you begin to slide back into a medically induced sedation, unanswered questions swirl through your mind.

This is where Tim Dyer, a longtime member of St. Francis, Youngsville, and a postulant in the ordination process, found himself in early 2013 after a series of hospitalizations stemming from a car accident. In November of 2012, a deer was hit by an oncoming car and thrown through the windshield of Tim’s truck as he was driving to work. His jaw and right arm were broken and the ligaments in his right wrist were torn. He was told he was lucky; with the manner in which his jaw was broken, it usually would have entered the brain, resulting in death. As it was, Tim was hospitalized and endured multiple surgeries before being released.

Less than a week later, he was re-admitted after contracting a blood infection and pneumonia and placed in a medically induced coma. While in the coma, he was placed on dialysis; had multiple blood transfusions; and underwent surgery to take out the wiring in his repaired jaw, as well as the pacemaker and defibrillator he had due to a pre-existing heart condition, after they were affected by the infection. At Christmas, doctors asked Tim’s wife, Noreen, and his parents if they were prepared for his death. The doctors gave him a 20% chance of survival and, if
he survived, they were concerned his mental capacity would be seriously diminished after his prolonged sedation.

God had other plans. After six weeks, Tim was taken off the respirator and transferred to a rehab facility. It was during this transfer that Tim woke up in the ambulance, having no recollection of his collapse or subsequent hospitalization. He said that fear gripped him then, but it was nothing like the fear that was to come.

As he came out of his sedated state, Tim was unable to feel a connection to God due to the effect of the drugs on his mind. The fear that filled him because of this was new and overwhelming. “Since hearing a call [to ordained ministry], I have felt a strong inner peace,” he stated, “Now, the inner peace was gone; I felt no sense of God at all.” He couldn’t even look to the Bible or the Book of Common Prayer to help him, as he couldn’t focus long enough to read them.

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“My family is this diocese. Without their prayers, I would not have made it through.”

He could, however, look to the people of this diocese. Clergy and laypeople from a number of congregations visited Tim, bringing him communion and praying with him. “I lacked a sense of spirituality and they reinforced that sense for me.” And it wasn’t just those in the diocese he was close to that were coming alongside him in his time of need: “People all over the diocese, who didn’t even know me, were praying for me,” Tim said, recounting a phone call with one of our congregation’s secretaries, when she exclaimed, “You’re the Tim we’ve been praying for!” He said it was humbling to have that many people come together for him, but came to understand that support “defines what the Christian family is.”

Strengthened by the prayers and encouragement, Tim was released from the rehab facility in the spring of 2013. While he continues to undergo surgeries and physical therapy, Tim is making progress physically (a recent victory was being able to tie his shoes on his own) and spiritually. His connection to God and the inner peace that comes with it has returned. Tim also has realized the importance of acknowledging gifts from God “on good days, but more importantly, on bad days. The more that we recognize the gifts and works around us, we develop a deeper relationship with God.” He has also realized the importance of Christian community: “My family is this diocese. Without their prayers, I would not have made it through. When I was at my weakest, they were there to give me strength. It’s what family does for each other.”

Vanessa Butler

Successful ‘Children of Abraham’ Event Teaches Peace and Interfaith Dialogue

man-851891_1280Sam slowly started putting on traditional Arab clothing over his suit and tie as he gave his presentation. At the end of the presentation there stood the same man but he looked very different. Many people seemed surprised at how they judged and perceived someone based on how they were dressed.

On September 12, 2015 Trinity Memorial Church in Warren PA hosted the latest Children of Abraham event. There were approximately 35 to 40 people in attendance. The concept behind The Children of Abraham Project is that it is not a one time only event. Daily we are inundated with stereotypical images that can skew our perception of our fellow human beings. One event can not counter the influences of mass media and social media. The event that was held at Trinity Memorial was an introductory event designed for people that may not be familiar with the concept of interfaith dialogue. As an interfaith encounter The Children of Abraham is intended to give people the opportunity to interact with someone who may hold a different theological, philosophical, or spiritual point of view of our common human experience. It is about building relationships, and seeing the world through another person’s perspective. An interfaith encounter is not about debating or arguing about who is “in” or who is “out.” It is not about determining if one faith is “enlightened” or if another is “backward.” It is about sharing the common love that exists in all of our hearts; a love that binds all of humanity together; a love that makes us one family.

This event was also intended to give people a brief overview of the history of Judaism and Islam. Deacon Timothy Dyer gave history of how Judaism, Islam and Christianity are historically related. He also spoke about how the concept of The Children of Abraham Project came into being. He described how it is linked to the vows taken in the Episcopal Baptismal Covenant. For him, the two questions that directly pertain to interfaith relationships are “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?” and “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” Prayer and discernment of these two questions led to developing The Children of Abraham Project.

Harvey Stone (a practicing Jew and business owner from Warren PA) spoke of the Jewish experiences throughout history. Harvey gave a brief over view of the history of Jews from ancient biblical time to modern Judaism. Obviously this is a huge time period to cover and only a snapshot of this history was given. We hope to be able to delve into this deeper at later events. Many of those in attendance seemed surprised to learn at how recent and wide spread the persecution of Jews has been. Even more surprising was the history of anti-Semitic beliefs that were supported in America. Harvey also spoke of the contributions that Jewish people have made to the world in arts and sciences.

Sam Qadri (a high school teacher and adjunct professor at the Jamestown Business College and the Public Relations Director at the Jamestown Islamic Society ) is the one who put traditional Arab clothing over his suit while he spoke of the Muslim perspective. Sam gave a brief history of Islam. He also spoke about similar stories that are shared by the three Abrahamic religions, and some of the differences. His outfit change helped us understand how we can error in our judgments when they are based on perception.

As The Children of Abraham we come from different backgrounds and traditions. We do not speak the same language of worship, yet we share a common religious ancestry. We follow different teachings, which are made known to us by sacred scriptures. Yet we come together. We honor and celebrate our diversity but more importantly our similarities. If civilization or humanity is to survive, then we must work together to heal our communities. Peace is possible, but it must be pursued with education, understanding, and a loving heart. We come together not to proselytize or convert anyone. We are here to listen, to learn, to understand, and to hopefully counteract the bigotry, hatred, and stereotypical images that inundate our society. Our hope is to bring change and reconciliation to the world – one mind, one heart at a time because we are one human family.

The event lasted for two and a half hours. A brief question and answer period was offered at the end of the presentations. The feedback from those that attended was very positive. We anticipate holding more events on varying topics. The Children of Abraham Project has been in existence for 3 years and is an evolving program. Recommendations of topics for events are always welcome. The gentlemen that are involved are interested in spreading the message of love and peace and are willing to travel to any location within the diocese. If you wish to host an event, please contact Deacon Tim Dyer at therevtddyer@gmail.com.

Deacon Timothy Dyer, Trinity Memorial Church, Warren, PA and St. Francis, Youngsville, PA

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