Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Interfaith Thanksgiving

Last night I went to an interfaith Thanksgiving service—how inspiring! It was a rich feast of spiritual community and ideas, just flowing abundantly. (For my international readers, Thanksgiving is celebrated once a year in the US, on the fourth Thursday in November, so the actual holiday is tomorrow.)


Fifteen spiritual communities in town were represented. Hosted at Temple Beth Am, the service included readings, prayers and inspiring messages from First Parish, St. Stephen Parish, the Lutheran Church, the Islamic Center of Boston, First Church of Christ, Scientist (my little church), Baha'is, First Baptist Church, First Assembly of God, the United Methodists, Plymouth Church UCC, Edwards Church UCC (if you go to the staff page you can see my friend Debbie, their minister), St. Andrew's Episcopal, the Salvation Army, the Sons of Mary Missionary Society, and the Armenian Church of the Holy Translators. (For a special treat, read the welcome message on the Armenian church homepage—it's something all churches should aspire to.)


The evening started with the sounding of the shofar calling us to prayer. That sound always moves me, it makes me feel connected to the centuries of humanity's growth Spirit-ward. We sang and did responsive prayers from all different traditions. The Gratitude for Diversity of American Culture prayer (which you can read if you scroll about 3/4ths of the way down the linked page) resonated with me fully, especially in light of the work I've been doing tutoring immigrants in English.


And the evening was capped off with an address by Rev. Sandra Bonnette-Kim. It was a wonderful message about showing appreciation for those we love. She offered the thought, based on research apparently, that it's not that we feel love and therefore we act loving, it's that in performing loving acts, our loving feeling will grow. I loved that!


What moved me most was the coming together of all these traditions in fellowship. The service opened with the quote from the Roman orator Cicero: "Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others."


And another powerful idea was from a Jewish theologian (I apologize for not noting his name) that when we reach spiritual totality, all prayers will become unnecessary, except the prayer of gratitude.


It was a great kickoff to my favorite holiday of the year. Spending time on gratitude is probably the most health-giving and joyous discipline we can adopt. The air is singing with it this week, and I love the song.


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