Interfaith group provides support, inspiration and connection for area clergy

Interfaith group provides support, inspiration and connection for area clergy
Ellen Pill

WAIP members intersect with many community organizations and nonprofits in speaking up and working on community projects and issues.


For over 15 years, area clergy have gathered together once each month to discuss anything affecting their faith communities and the greater community, as well as their individual callings. The group is called the Wooster Area Interfaith Partnership.

A recent meeting found the group saying their farewells to several area clergy who are retiring or moving out of the area, preparing for their summer WAIP hiatus, and discussing upcoming and ongoing issues of concern within the community.

One ongoing issue the group has been active with is the coalition to ban the Confederate flag at the Wayne County Fair. WAIP works with the local NAACP chapter as well as other groups on this issue.

Another current issue of concern is the need for transitional shelter and affordable housing in Wayne County. Members of the partnership were heavily involved in setting up a warming center during the polar vortex last winter and plans are already underway for a warming center for next winter.

The clergy who participate in WAIP support each other in many ways, often attending each other’s services when possible.

Kevan Franklin came to the group in 2004 and is now the group’s chair or, as he likes to say, “convener.”

“A group of clergy had been convened to talk about the impact on the community of the loss of Rubbermaid,” he said.

As far as Franklin understands, the last time there had been an interfaith partnership in Wooster prior to that had been in the ‘70s.

Franklin and some other religious leaders got together and decided it was a good idea to form an official group, and WAIP was born.

“It started with a focus on the economic consequences of losing a major employer,” Franklin said. “So that is how we started, and we have always been focused on being in touch with the social needs of the community. That set the tone for the group conversation.”

Andrew Frantz is a minister intern at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Wayne County. He said, “I’ve attended for almost three years and have appreciated this group. It has aided me in my formation as a minister to get a broader perspective on ministry.”

Unitarian Universalist Rev. Elaine Strawn said, “I think it’s important to have a group that can make social statements when they are needed. On issues like immigration, it is important to have a group that speaks from a religious standpoint on what our duties are in confronting social issues in the culture as well as to be supportive of one another’s ministries.”

“I think this group allows us to get to know one another so we trust each other,” said Evan Fischer, reverend at St. James Episcopal Church. “We’re not competing. There is no ego about whose church is better, and that allows us to work together and do ministry together.”

The group has been involved in so many issues and activities over the years it was hard for Franklin to list them all. He explained the group has worked a lot to be supportive regarding issues of poverty and helping people in need. Many of the faith communities involved with WAIP are involved in providing no-cost meals on a regular basis.

“People often come to us looking for volunteers for organizations and events,” Franklin said.

WAIP intersects with many other community organizations and nonprofits in speaking up and out as well as working on community projects and issues.

Franklin said, “It’s important for us to be supportive of local agencies. We regularly have folks from groups like The Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity and People to People attend.”

For many years the WAIP clergy have been involved in the community-wide annual Martin Luther King Day celebration. In recent years they have put together a public Good Friday service on the square in downtown Wooster.

Another function of the group is to keep track of community services in order to provide up-to-date information and referral to those in need.

“In some ways it’s a support group,” Franklin said. “We talk about national and world issues. We’re all involved with environmental issues. We promote one another’s programs.”

In order to keep those interested up to date, Franklin sends out a monthly email with information about WAIP activities and meetings as well as other community events.

To help keep current and active with particular issues, the group often forms subcommittees.

“We had a subcommittee that dealt with immigration,” Franklin said.

The group held a prayer vigil for immigration in connection with an area church heavily involved in and concerned about the current treatment of men, women and children crossing the border.

“It helps to have a group of people who can collaborate,” Franklin said. “We have people with a lot of diversity and a broad range of social and theological perspectives, with a wide variety of worship styles. It’s good to have those conversations. We are intentional about using the word ‘interfaith.’ We want to reach out to everyone in the community.”

WAIP is all about a spirit of cooperation without concern for individual recognition.

Anyone interested in joining the group or in speaking at one of the Wooster Area Interfaith Partnership’s monthly meetings about issues or needs affecting the community is invited to email Franklin at or call 330-264-9250.

“This would be a good place for anyone working for social-uplift programs in the community to come and speak about what they are doing,” Franklin said.

Frantz said, “Ministry can be a lonely profession, and it’s good having people who speak the same language. Kevan Franklin is a great leader. This group really comes together to work on things that affect the community.”

Franklin said, “We tackle the issues of the day.”

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