Interfaith Thanksgiving Service Celebrates Unity in Diversity
● By Claudia Mosby
The Spirit of Giving
By Claudia Mosby
Photos by Lynn Fritz
In this season of giving thanks, the Shasta County Interfaith Forum invites us all to celebrate our unity in diversity through an interfaith Thanksgiving service later this month.
“Thanksgiving is not based upon a particular faith tradition,” says Forum Chair Lynn Fritz, who estimates the annual service dates back at least 15 years. “Thanksgiving is about giving, and it unifies us regardless of our personal traditions.”
The content shared varies from poems and prayers to chants, rituals, reflective thoughts and readings. For traditions that have sacred attire, presenters wear that attire, Fritz says, which helps people identify diversity visually as well as through teaching. “It’s a multicultural as well as a faith/interfaith experience for the family and the community,”
The Interfaith Forum includes both Protestant and Catholic traditions. Other members of the Forum from the Native American, Quaker, Jewish, Islamic, New Thought and Sikh communities take part in the service, presenting something from their own tradition related to giving thanks.
“Once we have the interfaith/intercultural experience, we give ourselves permission to explore further,” says Fritz. “It encourages us to go beyond our comfort zone and is a way of helping to build healthier communities. It expands our worldview.”
The family-friendly service, scheduled for 60 to 90 minutes, welcomes visitors with drumming from the Thunder Drum group from the Local Indians For Education (LIFE) Center in Shasta Lake City.
Fritz follows the drum prelude with an official welcoming ceremony honoring the four directions of East, South, West and North, paying homage to the various life-giving spirits in Native American tradition.
The main service focuses on a brief sharing from representatives of each of the traditions present, two anthems from the interfaith choir, and a closing song for which everyone is invited to participate.
Donations collected are gifted to local nonprofit organizations, assisting those in need. This year’s donations will benefit People of Progress and the HIV/AIDS Food Bank.
After the service, everyone is invited to socialize and enjoy cookies provided by members of the Interfaith Forum. “I always encourage the presenters to attend in their sacred attire (if they wear such attire) to talk with community members,” says Fritz.
The Shasta County Interfaith Forum functions as a networking group, sponsoring additional community events, including Inviting the Sacred, an interfaith service, and The Floating of the Lanterns, modeled after a Hawaiian peace practice. It also co-sponsors the Vaisakhi Festival, a multicultural educational event at the Sikh Centre in Anderson.
“Our main function is to promote acceptance and understanding,” says Fritz. To this end, the Interfaith Forum has participated in area peace and non-violence events, multi-cultural celebrations and vigils in response to attacks on faith or cultural communities.
“It has been powerful for me to witness the relationships that have been formed and strengthened through this association, especially with its members,” says Fritz. “We do not all share the same spiritual perspective on issues, but we create sacred space for differences and diversity of beliefs.”
The Interfaith Forum provides education through its community educational forums (the most recent, “Diversity of Faith,” featured speakers on Islam, Sikhism, Christianity and Judaism) and its hosted luncheons for local government leaders.
“We invite people, whether or not they are part of a faith community, because it builds understanding of our diversity,” says Fritz. “We have had atheists and agnostics show up at some of our events and dialogue with us. It’s an opportunity to experience and share our differences with each other, building respect. By understanding our differences, we can learn from each other.”
Interfaith Thanksgiving Service • Sunday, Nov. 19; 7 pm
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
3410 Churn Creek Road, Redding
www.shastacoif.blogspot.com • (530) 243-8892