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October 23, 2014

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Religion:

Religious leaders come together to create feel of community in Southern Nevada

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Pastor Marta Poling-Goldenne of New Song Church carries a sign Saturday to be placed along the trails of the Pittman Wash behind Silver Springs Recreation Center for Project Green Volunteer Make A Difference Day.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Las Vegas Valley Community Convention, bringing together religious groups of all faiths and community leaders to address common problems in Nevada.

WHEN: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 22

WHERE: UNLV Student Union Ballroom. S. Maryland Parkway and Del Mar Street

INFORMATION: [email protected]

The Revs. Marta Poling-Goldenne and Dennis Hutson noticed something about Southern Nevada when they moved here to lead congregations: Las Vegans are not very interconnected.

That may be the legacy of a community growing up too quickly, said Poling-Goldenne, who with her husband, the Rev. David Poling-Goldenne, leads the congregation at New Song Church in the Anthem community of Henderson. Even members of the clergy were too busy tending to the growth of their own congregations to reach out to other religious leaders and the rest of the community, she said.

Hutson, who came here from Texas, and Poling-Goldenne, from Illinois, say there is little sense of community in the valley and communication is nonexistent — and now is the time to address it.

On Tuesday, religious leaders from a variety of faiths and denominations will come together at UNLV to launch the Las Vegas Valley Community Convention, a broad-based organization with the purpose of initiating dialogues and finding solutions for community issues, including those affecting children, the elderly, immigrants and those affected by the housing crisis. The membership includes 65 churches, synagogues, mosques, schools and nonprofit organizations.

Among the local religious leaders who have signed on are Bishop Dan Edwards, Episcopal Diocese of Nevada; Dr. Aslam Abdullah, Islamic Society of Nevada; Rabbi Malcolm Cohen, Temple Sinai; Pastor Camille Pentsil, Zion United Methodist Church; and the Rev. Robert Stoeckig, Catholic Diocese of Las Vegas.

The group has met with public and elected officials and hopes to forge relationships with various agencies to constructively address problems and alert the proper state agencies to issues that arise in their communities.

“We want to change the way problems get solved,” Marta Poling-Goldenne said. “A lot of the government officials we’ve met with have said this will make it a whole lot less challenging for them. We can rally support, and we are tied to our communities and neighborhoods. We are on the ground.”

She said the group wants to alter the trend of Las Vegas being “at the top of all the bad lists and at the bottom of the good lists.”

“We want to be a place where people want to come — and not just in the usual sense of the entertainment capital of the world,” she said. “This should be a place where people want to live because of the quality of schools and the deeply connected communities in the valley.”

It is a sentiment echoed by Hutson, pastor at Advent United Methodist Church.

“Las Vegas doesn’t seem very family-oriented,” he said. “A lot of us come from somewhere else, and we leave our support systems behind. People become isolated, disjointed and disconnected. To create a better future, we have to work together.”

The process started in early 2009, Hutson said, when Methodist leaders started to reach out to the heads of other religious groups in an effort to emulate similar collaborations undertaken in Southern Texas and elsewhere. Over three years, Hutson and others met leaders around Las Vegas to build trust and lay the groundwork for the Community Convention.

The organization plans to tackle issues that affect their various constituencies and the Las Vegas community as a whole, including the foreclosure crisis and blighted properties, sex trafficking, education, immigrant integration, health and well-being of the elderly, and other children’s issues.

The group’s effect on the valley remains to be seen, but it has already succeeded in bringing the area’s religious leaders together. The event Tuesday will mark the first time the Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist and Episcopal bishops of Las Vegas will be in the same room together, Marta Poling-Goldenne said.

She said she had already met several other religious leaders and is quickly building ties to other congregations.

“I didn’t even know Anthem was here before,” Hutson said, half-jokingly, about meeting Marta Poling-Goldenne.

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