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Interfaith community unites together for Thanksgiving

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A girl performs a Hindu Religious Dance with friends on stage, during the Interfaith Thanksgiving Celebration at First Presbyterian Church, Sunday afternoon.


By Tyler Stocks
The Daily Reflector

Monday, November 19, 2018

People from a variety of religious traditions came together to give thanks on Sunday afternoon during the 17th Annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Celebration service at First Presbyterian Church in Greenville.

Rumbling of drums reverberated through the sanctuary as individuals walked down the aisle in a processional with various faith symbols before carefully placing them on The Interfaith Thanksgiving Table.

“We have multiple faiths represented and it's a joy for us to come together,” said the Rev. Amanda Hines of First Presbyterian Church. “We have many things in common. We have a passion for peace, a passion for justice, In the spirit of Thanksgiving.

“Today we come together to celebrate that spirit of gratitude that we all have within us,” Hines said.

Each of the 12 symbols that were placed on the Thanksgiving table had its own special meaning. The seasonal pentacle wreath, for instance, represented the interwoven balance of spirit and nature, manifested as air, fire, water, and earth. An empty chalice symbolized humility before the mystery of life. A picture of the Ka'bah, a place located near the center of the Great Mosque in Mecca, is considered to be the most sacred spot on Earth to Muslims. The bell and Dorje represented the Tibetan Buddhism union of wisdom and compassion. The OM symbol, a sacred syllable in Hinduism, represented Brahman or the universal consciousness.

The processional was followed by the sounding of the Shofar by a member of congregation Bayt-Shalom and the Islamic Call to Prayer which was performed by Imam Shaik Fuzailahmed of Al-Masjid Islamic Center.

Also during the service, a Wiccan ritual of gratitude to the Divine within and elemental energies was led by Minister Nancy West-Brake. Prayers to ancestors were recited, candles were lit, and a water bowl was held up as congregants gave thanks to all the elements of Earth, Water, and Fire.

The highlight of the service was a community circle led by Rev. Ann Harrington of the Free Spirit Inclusive Catholic Community.  Some participants rose from their pew and joined hands with others and sang “Thanks A Lot” a song giving thanks for nature, animals and the people who surround us.

Also during the ceremony, Rabbi Harley-Karz-Wagman of Congregation Bayt Shalom sang, youth representing the Hindu temple performed a religious dance and Rev. Mike Goff from First Christian Church told a Thanksgiving story.

The choir of Unitarian Universalist sang “When Our Heart is in a Holy Place”

The event was closed with a Buddhist blessing by members of KTC Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Center.

Sunday's event was sponsored by The Interfaith Alliance of Eastern Carolina.

The group began in 2002 following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and Rev. Karen Day of the Unitarian Universalist Church invited people of various faith traditions to come together to discuss ways that the community could work together in promoting peace, understanding, and justice within our community.

The mission of IFEC is to promote peace and justice through open communication and understanding of various faith traditions. They share religious values of harmony, compassion, human dignity, and mutual respect.

To achieve this mission, a group known as Prayers for Peace and Justice meets monthly during the school year and includes an increased awareness time of learning, discussing and expanding their connections with others.

To learn more about IFAEC, visit them on Facebook at facebook.com/interfaithec.

Contact Tyler Stocks at tstocks@reflector.com or 252-329-9566. Follow him on Twitter @TylerstocksGDR