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Faith in Focus

Faith in Focus: Interfaith connections growing in Carlisle

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This year’s Community Interfaith Thanksgiving Service was celebrated with the theme, “Welcoming the Stranger with the Spirit of Thanksgiving.”

Each year the Carlisle Area Religious Council (CARC) brings the faith communities together at Thanksgiving. The last two years, the celebration included breaking bread together—a lovely Thanksgiving meal—at the host church, Second Presbyterian.

For those of you who weren’t there, imagine this:

The faith representatives processed into the sanctuary to the sound of tabla drumming, a traditional drum heard in many Buddhist and Hindu cultures. The sounding of the Jewish Shofar called us all to worship, and prayers, songs, chanting, meditation, praise dance, readings from sacred writings of many faiths filled the evening where over 260 people from over half a dozen faith traditions and about two dozen countries were engaged in praise and thanksgiving.

After the sounding of the Shofar, the Islamic call to prayer, the Catholic call to worship and a Buddhist centering meditation, Gale Wenk du Pont, president of CARC, welcomed us all. Rev. Jeff Gibelius from Second Presbyterian Church gave the host greetings, and then what followed were readings, prayers, praise and music from all the different faith traditions.

I wish we had the space to name and quote everyone who participated. Some limited highlights are offered here.

Ret. Col. Charles Allen offered a prayer for America, and Rev. Ivy Berry of Bethel AME in Mercersburg offered a unity prayer and led us in a moving song, “I Need You to Survive,” where we all got out of the pews, moving around to sing to one another. The Bosnian Children’s Choir from B&H Islamic Center in Mechanicsburg sweetly sang an anthem, the Youth Praise Dancers of Bibleway Hibner Memorial Church in Carlisle offered beautifully embodied praise, and Oliver Hazan from Bethel AME Church in Carlisle sang a powerful solo of “When All God’s Children Get Together.” The Passing the Peace was opened with people sharing the phrase, “Peace be with you,” in many different languages, followed by sharing the peace of God with our neighbors in the pews.

The offering raised over $1,500 for Project SHARE, and the service concluded with the song, “Shalom, Salaam, Farewell” led by all the evening’s service leaders. We all left with very full hearts, having experienced the powerful demonstration of commUNITY in Carlisle. How wonderful for us to be modeling the prophet-founder of the Baha’i faith, Baha’u’llah’s words: “Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch.”

Some of the inspiring quotes featured in the program booklet are offered here:

“’... no one is a stranger, no one is excluded, no one is far away’ (from Pope Paul VI in 1965). Indeed, we are a single human family that is journeying on toward unity, making the most of solidarity and dialogue among peoples in the multiplicity of differences.” ~ Pope Francis

“In the dialogue of the head, we mentally reach out to the other to learn from those who think differently from us. ... In the dialogue of the hands, we all work together to make the world a better place in which we must all live together. ... In the dialogue of the heart, we share the experience of the emotions of those different from us.” ~ Leonard Swidler, Khalid Duran and Reuven Firestone from “Trialogue: Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Dialogue”

“The world is but one country, and mankind its citizens ... Let not a man glory in that he loves his country; let him rather glory in this, that he loves his kind.” ~ Baha’u’llah, prophet-founder of the Baha’i faith

We are deeply grateful to CARC for bringing us together every year, as well as Second Presbyterian Church for graciously hosting this service. We hope to see you all next year.

Marcia Berry is a member of the Carlisle Baha’i Community. Comments are welcome at carlislebahai@yahoo.com and www.bahai.us.

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