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Let’s talk about faith

Q&A with Elaine Thomas, Cedar Crest Protestant Council president

Created date

November 24th, 2015
Elaine Thomas And Her Husband Leo
Elaine Thomas And Her Husband Leo

In the first of a series on faith and faith communities, we focus on the Protestant community at Crest in Pompton Plains, N.J. Who are the people within this close-knit community, and what do faith and community mean to them?

Elaine and Leo Thomas moved to Cedar Crest three and a half years ago from Basking Ridge. There, she was director of music and worship at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Springfield for ten years. Before that, she was minister of music and worship at Long Hill Chapel in Chatham.

Now at Cedar Crest, she serves as president of the Protestant Council and occasionally plays piano for the Protestant Choir. Here, she shares her thoughts on faith and appreciation for her community.

Q: Why is your faith important to you?

A: Because I believe God created us all and that every human is created in God’s image; Jesus’ words that I should love God with all my heart, mind, and soul; and that I should care for my neighbor as much as for myself. 

These have become central influences in my daily life. A neighbor, in my view, is anyone who comes into my sphere of daily activity. Because God loves and cares for each of His children, I should emulate that love and care as well.

Q: Why is being part of a faith community important to you?

A: This is a place where deep friendships are made because of mutually shared values. A faith community provides sanctuary—a place to come away from the stresses of daily living and into the presence of a loving God. And it’s a place to share one’s God-given gifts for the welfare of others.

Q: What is the value of having a strong interfaith community at Cedar Crest—for you personally, for the community as a whole, or both?

A: The majority of Cedar Crest residents most likely have had a life history of strong commitment to their particular religious community. Cedar Crest provides opportunities to the various faith groups to continue the practice of each religious tradition that is so important to many residents. The interfaith chapel has become the central meeting place for these groups. 

Working side by side with the different faith communities fosters respect and understanding for those who worship in different ways but also shows how very much alike we are in goals and in dealing with everyday challenges. 

Q: What services and celebrations will you take part in this holiday season?

A: Several. They are:

•Interfaith Thanksgiving Service, Monday, November 23, 11:00 a.m., Interfaith Chapel

•Protestant Community Christmas Party, Wednesday, December 9, 5 p.m., Woodland Commons Conference Center 

•Lessons and Carols, Sunday, December 13, 10 a.m., Interfaith Chapel (Protestant service)

•Christmas Carol Sing, Sunday, December 27, 10 a.m., Interfaith chapel (Protestant service)

In addition, our Protestant mission emphasis for November is WIN (Wayne Interfaith Network)—“neighbor helping neighbor via active food pantry.”

For December, it is the Wounded Warrior Project.

Q: Is there anything you would like to add on the topic?

A: Part of the importance of belonging to a church or synagogue is not only the worship services but the fellowship activities and the service to those in need that contribute greatly to the sense of belonging to community.  

In the last year, the Protestant Council has emphasized “outside-the-Sunday-service” events by planning once a month brunch and dinner signups in the various private dining rooms; taking trips, such as a day-long visit to West Point’s chapels; organizing a prayer team to pray for requests of individuals; and striving to increase awareness of our mission projects and giving.