Compassion — it’s a virtue.

And for the members of the Southern Cayuga Wider Parish, cultivating and studying compassion is the focus of this year’s five-part Lenten series of talks titled "The Politics of Compassion.”

For the past couple years, the multiple nondenominational churches that comprise the Southern Cayuga Wider Parish have banded together to host annual talks focusing on different facets of spiritually for the Lenten season. The ecumenical churches, housed in the southern half of Cayuga County, pick a timely topic to explore on five consecutive Sundays at five different churches. Different community religious figures serve at guests speakers at each talk, and attendees enjoy a delicious spread of soups as they digest the spiritual talk.

Esther Thurston, a parishioner at the United Church of Genoa and contact for the 2012 edition of the Lenten series, wasn’t present at the Southern Cayuga Wider Parish committee’s meeting when it decided to make “Politics of Compassion” this year’s theme. But from what she’s experienced at past years’ talks, Thurston expects this year’s series —starting this Sunday — to be a hit.

Thurston said each year’s Lenten topic is picked with care, and seeks to takes into consideration what the greater parish is currently going through.

“They’re always wondering how the topics are going to go,” she said.

Although this year’s topic focuses on compassion, Thurston said the committee always works to make sure every series incorporates religion.

“They wanted to make sure they got spirituality covered,” she said.


>>> The kickoff talk, titled “Compassion as a Spiritual Value,” is set for this Sunday at the United Church of Genoa and will be given by Chris Goral, a pastor for Sennett’s Vineyard Church. Giving a preview of her talk, Goral posed a few questions in a Feb. 15 press release to get attendees thinking.

“If I don’t have a virtue of compassion, do I just start acting like I am compassionate?” Goral asked. “What is the difference, you may ask, between pretend, genuine compassion and God’s compassion?”

>>> The second talk, “Compassion in the Hebrew Scriptures,” is slated for March 4 and will be given by the Rev. Robert French, pastor of the United Ministries of Aurora. It will be held at the King Ferry Presbyterian Church. The talk will identify and explore stories of empathetic acts and suggestions within the religious texts of Judaism.


>>> Mark Lawson, pastor of the Bayberry United Church of Christ in Liverpool and a Le Moyne College professor, will conduct the March 11 talk. The third talk in the series, called “Compassion in the New Testament,” will be held at Trinity United Church of Christ in Union Springs. It will look at tales of compassion weaved throughout the New Testament.


>>> The fourth talk, “Compassion in our Nation’s History,” will be given by Martin Sweeney on March 17 and will be held at the Scipioville Presbyterian Church. As a historian studying President Abraham Lincoln, Sweeney will share important acts of compassion throughout the United State’s 235-year-long history. 


>>> The fifth and final talk in the series, “Contemporary Acts of Compassion,” is scheduled for March 25 and will be hosted at the Aurora United Ministry Church. Given by Marvin Mich, a member of the Catholic Community of Rochester, the final talk in the 2012 Lenten series will study acts of kindness in the modern age. 


Although each talk — and the soups and beverages that accompany them — are free and open to the public, the Southern Cayuga Wider Parish encourages attendees to exercise their compassion this year by donating to Daylight House and Chapel House, two homeless shelters that serve Cayuga County.

With food both for eating and thought, Thurston said the evening Lenten series talks are worth setting time aside for.

“They have a lot of soups to enjoy,” Thurston said with a laugh before waxing serious. “Each speaker can be quite inspirational.”


Staff writer Samantha House can be reached at 282-2282 or Follow her on Twitter at 



Southern Cayuga Wider Parish 2012 Lenten Series Schedule


What: Compassion as a Spiritual Value

When: 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 26

Where: United Church of Genoa, 10070 Route 90, Genoa

Info: Call (607) 553-0093


What: Compassion in the Hebrew Scriptures

When: 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday, March 4

Where: King Ferry Presbyterian Church, 8821 Route 90, King Ferry

Info: Call 364-7235


What: Compassion in the New Testament

When: 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday, March 11

Where: Trinity United Church of Christ, 163 S. Cayuga St., Union Springs

Info: Call 880-7302


What: Compassion in our Nation's History

When: 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday, March 18

Where: Scipioville Presbyterian Church, 3428 Route 34 B, Scipioville

Info: Call 364-5110


What: Contemporary Acts of Compassion

When: 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday, March 25

Where: Aurora United Ministry Church, 337 Main St., Aurora

Info: Call 364-5836

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