Interfaith Thanksgiving brings together people of all backgrounds

IAN Thanksgiving 2009

Salma Ahmad and Roomina Ahmed of the Islamic Society of Greater Portland and Jim Doyle of St. Matthew Catholic Church enjoy the festivities.

by Judy Poltz

The theme of this year’s Interfaith Thanksgiving program was “A thankful heart has a continual feast.” Sponsored by the Inter-Religious Action Network of Washington County (IAN), the program took place at the Latter Day Saints Stake Center (also called the Mormon Church) on Jackson School Road in Hillsboro, on the evening of November 22, 2009.

The program was itself a feast of friendship! No fewer than seventeen faith communities and organizations participated. I visited the dining area as set-up was ongoing, and found it abuzz with activity–people from many different backgrounds greeting each other warmly, laughing, taking pictures, with happy memories of last year’s event and excited anticipation as they prepared for this year’s event.

This program has become a way for forging friendships across so many lines of ethnicity, religion, occupation, and geography. It looked a little like the United Nations in there, with so much diversity! A photo collage, posted on the IAN website, showing the cheerful faces of many of those in attendance, speaks a thousand words about the evening.

The program is a fund-raiser for Family Bridge, which operates a shelter in Hillsboro for homeless families. Early reports showed that $3,000 was contributed at the event, with more checks still being received in the mail.

2009 IAN Thanksgiving centerpiece

Members of the Church of Scientology prepared the centerpieces for the tables.

Among the many features of the program were an interfaith choir, special words shared from the many faith traditions, and the reading of “America’s Table” (a Thanksgiving reflection on the blessings of our nation, prepared by the American Jewish Committee). A fellowship meal followed, prepared by members of the participating faith communities. The dinner was marked by many thoughtful and loving touches—such as the display of colorful banners representing the participating faith traditions and organizations, and the simple but elegant table decorations, shown in the attached photo, which were prepared by members of the Church of Scientology.

Baha’i communities in Washington County purchased the paper plates and related products for the dinner. Several individual Baha’is assisted in the program. Shawn Berger was one of the youth who led the congregation in reading “America’s Table.” Daniela Agostini read a beautiful passage by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Carl Van Wormer cheerfully hung the banners in the dining hall.

We who attended had fun, enjoyed a good meal, and had a chance to serve a good cause. As if that wasn’t enough, we were all cheered to remember the many blessings for which we are thankful, and to realize that a thankful heart truly does have a continual feast.