Interfaith Thanksgiving – More than Just a Concept
Wow… I wish I could get across the feel of the Interfaith Thanksgiving Service I attended last night. It was a broadly interfaith service truly focused on giving thanks. I don’t think there is anything else even close in our community (Escondido, CA) which gathers people from widely divergent groups and beliefs – religiously and politically – and has them come together in heartfelt celebration. (I doubt many cities have something so special and well-attended, but hope they do.)
Everyone seemed to appreciate the common ground of blessings received and their giver thanked, however differently the giver may have been perceived.
With the election so recent, you could tell that it was also on the minds of both speakers and audience. And this is a community about equally divided on a partisan basis, and with lots of immigrants of every “status”.
But no one referred to the election directly. No gloating. No “what should have been” or anything else.
Just gratitude in general.
Secondarily, it was a celebration that diverse people of faith in our region (and our city particularly) have worked effectively together to serve “the least among us”, particularly the homeless. You may have heard their numbers are, if anything, increasing in Southern California. However, North County (San Diego) has a success rate almost double that of the surrounding county and most regions to our north (Orange Co., LA, etc.). Here, we’re re-housing a lot of homeless people, getting them back to work and overall stability, feeding and providing shelter for those still homeless, etc.
Please bear with a little explanation, toward a point:
That success is largely because of the work of our Interfaith Community Services non-profit organization. It covers North County with hubs in Escondido and Carlsbad/Oceanside. The core of church support, and the community via churches, seems to come from our city.
The Escondido Faith Leaders’ Council, which organizes the community Thanksgiving services, overlaps with the key supporters of Interfaith Community Services. I’ve recently gotten involved myself (many lay people are involved, not just ministers). It’s been great to see how active and “cutting-edge” our local efforts are. They increasingly train and integrate faith leaders in community efforts, along with directly serving veterans, the homeless, and otherwise needy people in broader and deeper ways than ever. And that on top of good service steadily growing for 37 years!
This background info I’ve shared because it explains a lot of the incredibly positive dynamic in such a well-attended and celebratory service (I’d estimate at least 300-350 people, and that with almost none of the many local Evangelical church people present). A service like last night’s is not the “real game”, anyway… what I’ve briefly covered is!
But celebrations are important, as are joint expressions of our gratitude. They are also part of what fuels the daily work of service and enhances cooperation further.
A final point of importance to me and perhaps others who support interfaith efforts: Here was a demonstration, as directly celebrated by at least one speaker, that working together leads to mutual understanding and respect. It enables communities to transcend theological and political differences, at least in certain settings. It helps create larger vision. It helps us realize that further work together is also possible, because we do share important common ground.
Do you have a similar story from your community? We’d love to hear and celebrate with you!