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Interfaith panel tackles ‘The Ten Commandments in the 21st Century’

Published on: May 13, 2015

OBSERVER FILE PHOTO Rev. Mark Salmon, Rabbi Carla Freedman and Rev. Timothy Shirley at last year’s Sun City Center Community Interfaith Thanksgiving Service.

Rev. Mark Salmon, Rabbi Carla Freedman and Rev. Timothy Shirley at last year’s Sun City Center Community Interfaith Thanksgiving Service.


“The Ten Commandments in the 21st Century” might sound a tad esoteric as subject matter for a panel discussion, but a trio of local religious leaders is preparing to address just how the ancient directives are still relevant to daily life.

Rev. Dr. Timothy W. Shirley of United Community Church, Rev. Dr. Mark E. Salmon of St. Andrew Presbyterian Church and Rabbi Carla Freedman of the Beth Israel Congregation of Sun City Center will be on hand for the discussion and will encourage audience participation.

How do our different faiths understand the Ten Commandments? How do we incorporate them into our lives today? Are there additional “commandments” to add to the list, in view of our time and its challenges? Those are among the questions the panel will be posing from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Thursday, May 28, at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, 1239 W. Del Webb Blvd., Sun City Center. The panel will also talk about the context of the Ten Commandments and how they were developed.

“Our hope is there will be a lot of interaction between us and the audience,” said Rev. Shirley. “We want to look at the Ten Commandments in terms of where they fit into contemporary society and contemporary religious thinking. We are hoping for a very lively and energizing conversation.”

The panel discussion grew out of a Thanksgiving service held last year that saw some 140 worshipers gather for joint prayers and song at Beth Israel. A collection during the service also saw more than $800 donated to Our Lady of Guadalupe Food Pantry in Wimauma.

“The Thanksgiving service was a wonderful experience,” said Rabbi Freedman. So much so that the three clergy members involved began meeting, “trying to figure out how to capitalize on the good feelings of that occasion and build on that sense of community that we had in the fall.”

They settled on the Ten Commandments for their next public meeting. “It’s a biblical text we all share that all of our traditions have invested a great deal of energy in, studying, interpreting and figuring out how to apply them in our own lives,” Freedman said.

The principles behind the Ten Commandments, she said, are “fundamental to the fabric of all of Western society, like don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t commit adultery, don’t murder, and don’t worship idols. These things are not mutable. They have stood the test of time and that’s why they are as important as they are.”

Echoing Freedman, Shirley said the Ten Commandments still resonate with modern living. “There are a lot of good, basic principles for living within them,” Shirley said. “We live in a society that has a myriad of complicated issues, so the challenge is to take anything in an ancient document, and in this case that is the Bible, and find a way to make it relate. It’s a big challenge.”

No matter how one views the origin of the Ten Commandments – many believe they are around 3,200 years old – they represent “good rules for living,” Shirley said. “But as with any element of scripture, it does come down to interpretation.”

Shirley said he hopes audience members come away with not only a better understanding of the subject but also an appreciation that “the biblical narrative still has relevance. It’s still a wonderful document and there is still a lot of life in it and it is worth having conversations around.”