Thanksgiving is once again upon us, and many are fretting about how on earth they’ll be able to get along with those people they invited to a meal. I want to do something different this year.
I know Thanksgiving is not strictly a religious holiday but rather a secular, even patriotic one. Frankly, though, the part I find most appealing happens to be the more spiritual-leaning aspect: a celebration that calls us to take a few moments out of our busy lives to reflect on the gifts we have received and then to give thanks for them.
This year, I plan to celebrate Thanksgiving Day here in Venice with members of my church community. Also, the evening before Thanksgiving, I plan to attend Venice Interfaith Community Association’s Annual Thanksgiving service at Venice United Church of Christ.
I have found Venice Interfaith’s annual service to be uplifting and enlightening every time I’ve been able to attend. Before moving to Venice several years ago, I worked in other interfaith settings as well and have many fond memories of all those people and places and events.
One of my most memorable experiences in an interfaith community occurred almost 20 years ago when I attended a prayer breakfast on the morning of what had been proclaimed a National Day of Prayer. I must say that I had steered clear of this sort of activity for many decades because I thought I would never fit in where people got together to do such religious-sounding things. For some reason I went, and I’m sure glad I did.
That morning, in the Fellowship Hall of a Greek Orthodox church in North Texas, about 500 people came together before work to eat, meet, talk and generally find out about each other and traditions different from their own.
I don’t remember anything else about the rest of the program that day, but I do remember how I felt during the communal prayer that was said. The prayer that morning was given by a group of people — a Conservative rabbi and a Reform rabbi, a Presbyterian lay person and a Methodist minister, a Greek Orthodox priest and a follower of Bahai, a Tibetan Buddhist monk, a practitioner of Wicca and a Unitarian Universalist minister.
Every one of the speakers during that prayer used language that was comfortable for them.
They prayed for the presence of God Almighty.
They prayed that their Gracious Lord would watch over us all.
They prayed for peace among nations and for sister- and brother- and sibling-hood for all people.
They prayed in the names of Elohim and God the Father and Mother Gaia, in the names of Jesus Christ and all the saints and all the gods and goddesses.
They prayed in the names of all the helpers of humankind, in the names of no one in particular and in the names of no one at all.
I was taken that morning by the willingness of those assembled to both speak from the heart in their own traditional languages and to listen deeply to others’ expressions of their hopes and desires in their own languages. I am here to testify that the prayer that day changed at least one heart among the 500 within its hearing.
If you want to meet some committed and caring people who will be counting their blessings and giving thanks for them together, please consider attending Venice Interfaith’s Service of Thanksgiving at 7 p.m. Nov. 27 at Venice United Church of Christ on Shamrock Boulevard.
If you attend, please seek me out and introduce yourself. I hope to see you there.