Farewell, 2011. What visions are in the crystal ball for Kentucky's faith communities in 2012? What are the issues? What are the challenges that faith communities will tackle? What are the dreams for faith communities of the city, state, nation and world?
The Herald-Leader's Question of Faith panelists shared their thoughts for the new year. Responses have been edited.
Debra Glenn Monck, Lexington: "I hope 2012 is a year of restoration in Lexington. I hope lives, homes and neighborhoods are revitalized and become what God designed.
"I dream my community will embrace simplicity. Living simply allows us to live with less, so those who need more can obtain more. ... Instead of encouraging people to accumulate, I hope to encourage them to relinquish.
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"I dream my community will be bothered if others struggle.
"I also hope we'll become willing to make our neighborhood better, as well as work to improve a neighborhood across town. ... If we all took the time to know people and their needs, we could make a difference."
Rabbi Marc Aaron Kline, Temple Adath Israel, Lexington: "There are many things in this world for which I am thankful and blessedly optimistic. At the same time, as a faithful citizen of this world, there are pieces of our world for which I have grave concern. ...
My prayer for our whole community is that we should prosper in heart and soul this coming year. I pray that we secure the ability and opportunity to feed and shelter our families, making sure that those who cannot do so get fed and sheltered as well. ...
I pray that we open our eyes to see that even those with whom we disagree are people who deserve the same dignity that we demand for ourselves. ...
I pray for peace, for love and for strength. ... May it be a great and wonderful year for us all. I pray for the day when God is one; not yours or mine, but ours, even where that becomes the only important thing upon which we agree."
Rachael Brooks, New Hope Church, Lexington: "The Scripture teaches us that we should never try to predict the future and that we should live in the present, so it would be wrong for me to attempt to give a detailed description of the future of New Hope.
"However, in the past, when we have been faithful, God has always blessed us in unexpected ways. Knowing this, I believe that it is possible to say that our congregation will ... seek the will of God through intentional prayer and wise discernment. God will bless us if we seek him, and it will be our intention to glorify him."
Kory Wilcoxson, Crestwood Christian Church, Lexington: "My prayer is that we are able to stay faithful to the message of the Gospel and that we honor God with our thoughts and actions. I pray we continue to make a difference for our church, our Lexington community and beyond."
The Rev. Jim Sichko, St. Mark Roman Catholic Church, Richmond: "If I had any dream for my faith community, ... I also dream for my greater faith community throughout the world.
"Though we are not all called to the ministerial priesthood of Jesus Christ, we are, as Christians, called to be 'priests' to all. ...
"Meditate on the law of God; believe what you read, teach what you believe and put into practice what you teach. ...
"Wow, if this can happen, then I can't wait to see what 2012 will bring us, through God's grace and mercy."
Mary Seeger Weese, Midway Presbyterian Church: "Our church will be trying its best to serve our little community of Midway. ... We will be constantly listening and looking for the spirit among us. We will be asking questions. We will dig deep into our faith. We will pray for God to guide us in ways that help us testify to the goodness of our Creator."
Therese Warrick, Sisters Road to Freedom, Lexington: "My dream for the faith community in 2012 is that we will address and attack the issue of abuse among our membership ... particularly, intimate-partner violence (physical violence, sexual violence, threats, emotional abuse).
"Intimate-partner violence and child abuse are taking place in the faith community, but most often these abuses are swept under the rug, ignored or simply excused. ...
"I am dreaming and praying that faith leaders, ministry leaders, pastors, priests, ministers and lay leadership will speak out from the pulpit; will support and recognize organizations that are addressing this issue; and that they will have programs in place for their members to address this problem."
Pete Hise, Quest Community Church, Lexington: "As I look to 2012, God's ancient words from Isaiah 43:19 are fresh and alive to me: 'I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?'
"I believe so many of us drag ourselves from one day to the next, ... keeping our aims low and our hopes measured. ... All the while, God stands ready to rush into our lives and transform them into a flourishing, vibrant movement of purpose and joy. ...
"When I look to the future, I don't see the limits of a struggling economy, the captivity of addiction, the irreconcilable differences of a withering marriage, or even the uncertainty of tomorrow. Instead, I see a God who is ready to create something new, even with our broken pieces. I see a God who notices those in tough times and wants to be their provider. I see a God who rescues, offering permanent freedom for the addict.
"I see limitless possibility for those willing to discard the familiar and step out toward God in audacious faith."
Roger Bruner, Mill Street Church of Christ, London: "The only insight to what the future holds is found in the Bible. By knowing what happened to communities and nations based upon their attitude toward God, we can know of a certainty what will happen."
Anthony Everett, Nia Community of Faith and Lexington-Fayette Urban County human rights commissioner: "The issues that our faith community faces as marginalized citizens (African-Americans and impoverished ethnic people) in Lexington are numerous.
"We face massive impoverishment of children, youth, and elderly ethnic people. ... We face children and youth who come home to empty food pantries everyday. ...
"We face adults, children and youth who have not a ... place to call home and businesses who will not serve our war veterans because they are homeless.
"We face for-profit educational institutions that seek out marginalized African-Americans, promising hope for a better standard of living only to become indebted beyond their means.
"We face a growing number of illnesses and deaths from preventable diseases. ...
"We face addictions to legal and illegal drugs at a lower rate than other populations, but the resulting incarceration is at greater rates.
"We face a non-African-American population that enjoys our prowess in the world of entertainment (sports and music) but does not seek to understand our humanity and judges us according to a patronizing hubris.
"All of us, however, face judgment from a God who has had enough of the injustices that humanity plagues on one another. ...
Nia Community of Faith envisions a new year in which 'purpose' (the meaning of nia) replaces despair in the lives of our community.
"We envision a growing movement of local social activist of all faiths working together to eradicate the sins that cause pain amongst the least, the last, and the lost of the Lexington community."
Dale White, St. Luke Anglican Church, Lexington: "We all have the power to influence the outcome of 2012. We learn to do that by being in positive places, with positive people, those who have hope. Without hope we fall into apathy, depression and a sense of being helpless and defeated. I believe Christians have found their hope in Christ."
Mickey Anders, South Elkhorn Christian Church, Lexington: "The year 2012 will be much like the year 2011. The world will not come to an end. ... Wars will continue. Scandals will emerge. People will die. Hearts will break. Politicians will grandstand. ...
But in the midst of all the darkness, there will be light. ... Rainbows will appear. Spectacular sunrises will take our breath away. Babies will be born. Young people will finish their education and enter the work force with hope. Families will cherish time together. Some who were expected to die won't. People will find love. Joy will win. Christ will come."