CARLA is the Charleston Area Religious Leaders ‘Association’
Sometimes known as the Charleston Interfaith Clergy Association

CARLA is a trust-building / socialcapitalbuilding group for ministers
and religious leaders from all faith traditions in our area.

We meet on a monthly basis to get to know each other better
and to provide support to each other in our various forms of ministry.

To view our current schedule of meetings or join our email list, please contact erin@ 


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Click here to read about the history and founding of CARLA



Group Helps Clergy Find Common Ground
Charleston Gazette, April 10, 2014

AR-140419915 carla
Bob Wojcieszak/Daily Mail
Members of the Charleston Area Religious Leaders Association, or CARLA, meet every month but have no agenda. They just talk and get to know each other. This is the 10-year anniversary of the organization.

They meet once a month with no agenda and take no stands on issues.

They simply gather for the fellowship. That is the beauty of CARLA and the reason the organization has remained strong for a decade.

CARLA, an acronym for Charleston Area Religious Leaders Association, is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

“We meet with no agenda and we take no stands,” said the Rev. Sky Kershner, an ordained United Methodist minister and executive director of the Kanawha Pastoral Counseling Center. “We take no stands and we have no officers. It’s a monthly gathering just for the purpose of getting to know each other.”

The group includes clergy from all different religions and denominations, including Jewish, Muslim, Orthodox, Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Lutheran, United Church of Christ, Unitarian Universalist, and Unity houses of worship.

When Kershner first tried to get CARLA going, he heard about previous groups that failed to stay together when delicate issues boiled. For example, there was the infamous 1974 Kanawha textbook controversy and the time disagreements swirled about gay clergy.

Kershner figured the way to keep a group together was to refuse to be divided by controversial matters.

As a result, members of the group have formed relationships, learned about various religious traditions and found how much they have in common.

“It has been really wonderful,” he said.

He said he has loved learning about other faiths such as the richness of the Jewish and Islamic traditions.

Asked why he enjoys being part of the group, Rabbi Victor Urecki of B’nai Jacob Synagogue said, “That’s easy. CARLA is one of the highlights of the month.”

He said participants realize how much they have in common as people of faith and in their respective roles—minister, rabbi, priest, imam.

“We learn about challenges and opportunities each of us has with our different parishes,” he said. “We are not there to change the world. We are there to share. I grow religiously every time I am there. It’s energizing for me.”

He said recent meetings have included discussion of Bible stories such as Noah and the Tower of Babel.

Rabbi James Cohn of Temple Israel said nearly every meeting he attends has a specific agenda…with the exception of CARLA.

“It’s a very supportive and nurturing environment for clergy who share a unique position in the community and a unique set of responsibilities,” Cohn said. “It’s a very enriching opportunity to learn from other clergy across religious denominations.”

He finds the meetings spiritually enriching as friendships are formed. He sees commonalities that are nurturing and differences that are enlightening.

He added that he believes he speaks for anyone who has ever been part of the group when he says CARLA “would not exist without Sky’s vision. It would not be what it is without his guidance and care.”

Imam Ehteshamul Haque, of the Islamic Association of West Virginia, agrees.

“Sky is a dynamic leader,” Haque said. “He’s a kind of glue which brings all people together. I respect him a lot. He introduced CARLA to me.”

Haque describes CARLA as a unique group of clergy members who gather for interesting meetings that are informative and educational. As religious leaders, they all face similar problems, challenges and issues, he said.

“CARLA brings different faith group leaders together and that is a beautiful thing,” he said.

And just as there is no agenda for meetings, there will be no special event held in recognition of the 10th anniversary of CARLA.

@tagline:Contact writer Charlotte Ferrell Smith at or 304-348-1246.