Bahai News -- Religious communities gather for annual Giving Thanks event TOP STORIES

Religious communities gather for annual Giving Thanks event

By:MICHAEL MOORE, Villager editor November 19, 2002

Following in the footsteps of the pilgrims and native Americans before them, diverse religious congregations from around The Woodlands are coming together to share their traditions and give thanks.

For the fourth consecutive year, Faiths Together will present its Giving Thanks event, an inter-religious Thanksgiving observance that will bring together residents of The Woodlands from all spiritual backgrounds. The event will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 26 at 7:30 p.m. at The Woodlands Community Presbyterian Church.

The Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Unity, Humanist, Baha'i, Unitarian, Catholic, Hindu and other communities will gather in a show of unity to share an American tradition.

"It is a powerful, wonderful thing when we can come together and be thankful for peace, understanding and compassion," said Rev. Cheryl Sunday of the Unity Church of The Woodlands.

The Giving Thanks event will include the traditional Thanksgiving dinner, and will incorporate different elements from each faith that is participating. Various ethnic foods will be presented at the event is will, allowing each culture to get a taste of the others.

In addition, representatives from each faith will stand at different times during the event to give thanks. Each faith will present a statement of prayer wisdom.

Rabbi James Brandt of Congregation Beth Shalom of The Woodlands will present a children's story, and Sunday will present a segment full of symbolic candles.

"It's a powerful demonstration," she said. "It doesn't matter if the candles are broken, the flame is the same."

The All Faiths Choir will perform at different times throughout the event. The choir, under the direction of Beth Thompson, will be a cross-section of the religious community of The Woodlands and south Montgomery County, incorporating vocalists from every faith.

In the weeks leading up to the event, children from each faith have been busy constructing symbols of peace. Students have created prayer flags, simple flags adorned with a handwritten prayer from their respective religions that carry a message of hope.

Once assembled, the flags will serve as the backdrop for the main platform from which religious leaders will give their presentations.

The Giving Thanks tradition began in 1999 when different faiths rallied together to show unity in the south county community, and it has grown every year since. During that first year, more than 400 people attended the observance. Last year, more than 800 people attended the service.

The Woodlands Christian Church has participated in the Giving Thanks event every year since its inception. Rev. David Emery said the event has lead to increased communication between different faith communities in The Woodlands.

"One of the mistakes that we Christians make is that we isolate ourselves," he said. "When we're isolated, we can't hear God speak to us. God speaks to us out in the world."

While some Christian churches have been hesitant to embrace the Giving Thanks event, Emery said sharing a holiday with neighbors of other faiths only confirms -- not contradicts -- his Christian beliefs.

"I don't think coming together to give thanks for a community with people who are different from us, in no way do I think that undermines my faith in Jesus Christ, my belief in Jesus as Lord and Savior," Emery said. "From my own personal perspective, I think that, as Christians, we're called out of the world to form a distinct society.

"But we're also called to go back into the world. It's important that we engage culture."

The Giving Thanks event is free to the entire community, but anyone who attends is asked to bring a non-perishable food item for the Interfaith Food Pantry. Childcare for preschool children will be provided by reservation.

For more information, call (281) 362-1100.

©Copyright 2002, The Villager (Oakridge, TX)


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