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Rockledge Unity Congregation Holds Conferences on Controversial Topics

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On Sundays, Friendship Fellowship in Pineda offers a generous helping of food for thought, even before the service begins.

Drawing from the well of free thought that is the hallmark of unitary universalism, Friendship Fellowship launched the Katy Stanton Lecture Series last year to open discussions on controversial topics such as global demographic trends, artificial intelligence , pseudoscience and fake news. Book bans, abortion and voting laws come next.

“We believe in intellectual freedom, we believe in justice, we believe in compassion and concern for each other and for the world,” said Reverend John Higgins, Minister Emeritus of Friendship Fellowship.

Lectures, free and open to the whole community, begin at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays and are followed by a short interfaith service. Customers can choose to stay or leave.

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Adding the possibilities of Zoom, the pandemic has helped the church expand its speaker pool to include experts from around the world.

“We realized there was an opportunity to bring in distinguished speakers from almost anywhere and project them live on the big screen via Zoom,” said Andy Petruska, chairman of the Sunday Services Committee. “We’ve had speakers from as far away as Peru.”

For the Sunday, Aug. 21 program on “Ban Books in Brevard,” the church didn’t have to go far for the panel, which includes former Brevard library services director Jeff Thompson, member of the Brevard School Board Jennifer Jenkins and Brevard Public Schools. honors and AP English teacher Adam Tritt.

Attendees will receive a copy of one of the most banned books in the United States, “Slaughterhouse-Five” by Kurt Vonnegut, a staple in college and AP English classes, as well as on the Smithsonian Institution’s list of books most important of the 20th century.

On September 4, the conference will Zoom with the author and speaker on women’s rights Dr Valerie Tarico. A former fundamentalist Christian, Tarico is a graduate of Wheaton College, a bastion of evangelical education. She is a popular speaker on topics such as moral development and the psychology of belief. She also contributes regularly to The Huffington Post.

Although Zoom conferences can be watched at home, they can also be seen at church. People who want to watch from home on Zoom can call 321-242-1117 to be included in the Zoom link distribution list.

However, Petruska strongly recommends in-person attendance.

“We always include a question and answer session as part of the conference, so there is interaction with the audience,” he said.

The 9/11 conference is back in person, with a look at “Voting Laws and the 2022 Elections.” Guest speaker Dr. Terri Fine is part of the School of Politics, Security, and International Affairs at the University of Central Florida. She is also associate director of the non-partisan organization Lou Frey Institute of Politics and Government at UCF.

The lecture series aligns with Friendship Fellowship’s goal of encouraging its congregation and community to never cease the pursuit of knowledge.

“Our fellowship has always been an assembly of lifelong learners,” Petruska said.

The Pineda Friendship Fellowship is located at 3115 Friendship Place, Rockledge. Call 321-242-1117 or visit Uuffpspacecoast.org.

Sonnenberg is a freelance writer based in Melbourne.

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