Interfaith Gathering Offered A Reminder: Take Time To Give Thanks

Published: November 20, 2018 at 09:00 am


The Reverend Leo McIlrath encouraged those who attended the Interfaith Thanksgiving Gathering on November 18 to take time to give thanks. It was a reiteration, he admitted, of things that had been said already that evening, but it was the focus of the entire gathering. It was a point, he said, worth repeating.

“Everyone has something to be thankful for,” Rev McIlrath said Sunday night. The ecumenical chaplain for The Lutheran Home in Southbury, he did not offer a sermon, nor even a homily. His words were simply a reflection, he said, on everyday life and the importance of being grateful.

“We hear it so often,” Rev McIlrath said from the pulpit at St Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church, where this year’s gathering took place. “This time of year, especially. People have lost their job, or their home, or someone they love, and they turn to us and say ‘What do I have to be grateful for?’”

As the nation moves away from the recent midterm elections that continue to stir debate and heated discussion, as the Jewish community continues to recover following an anti-Semitic shooting inside a Pittsburg synagogue that killed 11 people and wounded six others, and while the nation watches more homes, land, and lives become lost to raging wildfires in California, leaders from local houses of worship joined together Sunday evening to encourage thanksgiving.

Monsignor Robert Weiss, senior pastor of St Rose of Lima Church, welcomed the fellow spiritual leaders of Newtown and the guests to Sunday evening’s celebration. The group inside the sanctuary was blessed, he said, to have representatives from so many faiths together.

“Certainly Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to come together,” he said. “This national holiday allows all to come together regardless of faith.”

As he has for a number of years, Muadh Bhaunagarwala offered the Call to Prayer in Arabic. The representative from Al Hedaya Islamic Center was joined at the altar by the Reverend Lori Miller, pastor of Newtown United Methodist Church. Rev Miller also offered a Call to Prayer.

Shanaz Moudud represented the Baha’i Faith of Newtown. Saying she was “deeply honored” to participate, Dr Moudud offered a reading of Thanksgiving and a prayer in the spirit of gratitude.

She was followed by Steve Bamberg, from Congregation Adath Israel, who shared a prayer “read by religious Jews three times each day,” he explained. Mr Bamberg offered the prayer in Hebrew and then in English.

The Reverend Dr Jenny Montgomery, priest in charge at Trinity Episcopal Church, led the Litany of Thanksgiving; Jack Tanner, minister at Newtown Christian Church, read Psalm 100; and Reverend Matt Crebbin, senior pastor at Newtown Congregational Church, did a reading from the sixth chapter of The Book of Matthew, which he called “a traditional reading from the lectionary during this season.”

Echoing some of the earlier words of Monsignor Weiss, Rev McIlrath encouraged those in the pews Sunday night to think about the approaching November 22, “when all Americans will come together for just one purpose.” He encouraged the guests to think about something they were thankful for earlier in the day.

Offering his list, Rev McIlrath listed his life, his body, his mind, his spirit, the Creation, food that sustains him in every phase of his life, and for literary works that challenge his mind as things he is regularly grateful for.

“I am thankful for the inspiring nudges of the Holy Spirit,” he shared, “for the air I breathe, the water and the sun, for the birds in the air, the fish in the sea, and all animals of the Earth, great and small.

“I am thankful for the billions of stars and planets, and unseen galaxies not yet discovered,” he continued. “All of these are awesome realities from an awesome god, by whatever name you choose to call him.”

Rev McIlrath also called upon Psalm 95, which Rev Miller had read a short time earlier, reminding all to “come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.”

Rev McIlrath also invited those in attendance to share “something of our own resources.” Each year since 2011, when the interfaith Thanksgiving was resurrected following a break of many years, the offerings at these gatherings have been earmarked for FAITH Food Pantry. At Rev McIlrath’s encouragement, most approached the pulpit and placed financial donations into a basket, or food items next to the basket.

Jim Allyn provided the music for the evening, welcoming guests with a medley on the piano that included “Peace Train.” He continued sharing his talent, performing “If I Had A Hammer” as the special music about midway through the event and then “This Land Is Your Land” as the closing song, both on his guitar. Attendees were encouraged to sing along with both of those familiar songs.

In offering his Closing Blessing, Msgr Weiss offered his thanks. As well as wishing a happy holiday to those seated before him, he encouraged the group to make sure everyone has the opportunity to share that feeling. One local restaurant, he said, is offering its second annual free Thanksgiving dinner for anyone on their own this week.

“Murphy’s Pub will be opening at 1 pm on Thursday, and in the spirit of great Irish traditions, I’m sure it will be a good time,” he said, laughing. Turning serious, he added, “Please, if you know of anyone who needs it, encourage them to be part of that community.”

Approximately 40 people attended the gathering. It was a small but appreciative turnout, with many staying to socialize for a few minutes before heading back out into the chilly November evening at the conclusion of the 45-minute event.

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