Cultural Crossroads holds respect for all cultures, which, by definition, also includes all religions and life philosophies (the term “life philosophies” includes all forms of belief and non-belief, whether that belief involves a deity — like Christianity or the Baha’i Faith — or does not — like Buddhism or atheism).
Cultural Crossroads, therefore, supports and collaborates in a number of interfaith activities (see the postings Faith, Food and our Future Together, from May 13, 2017 and Just One Person, from April 30, 2017). Those collaborations include the Annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Community Dinner, in which Cultural Crossroads has been a partner since 2010. The Dinner is co-sponsored by the Heartland Chapter of Alliance of Divine Love and the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council.
The 2017 Annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Dinner was a most unique event, in that it took place at the Islamic Center of Johnson County, honoring Sheila Sonnenschein (a Jewish woman honored for her life’s work in interfaith relations), co-sponsored by interfaith organizations in partnership with a Christian food-oriented nonprofit, NourishKC (formerly Episcopal Community Services). This is the essence of true interfaith relations and a cause for pride and celebration by all citizens of our great community.
The gathering began with a flag ceremony by the Girl Scout Troop from the Islamic Center. A flag ceremony led by a Scout troop is not an unusual way to start a community dinner, but this ceremony was special – it was led by young girls who know only the freedoms of America, but whose parents, coming from different societies, know the preciousness of our American freedoms. The child with the small, high-pitched voice leading the Pledge of Allegiance probably had no idea of the depth of emotion felt by the diverse group she led in that Pledge – a group which represented over 20 faiths and dozens of cultures, united in love of country and faith.
Gathering in interfaith community is a unique experience – one which is grounded in respect and which is empowering to everyone concerned. There is no pressure to “defend” one’s belief system or to “decry” other’s beliefs; in fact, an interfaith gathering, especially one in the United States, joins all participants into a celebration of freedom which is palpable to everyone involved. It becomes a joint expression of patriotism – that we, here in the United States, have the freedom to associate with whom we choose, to worship in the fashion we choose, and to join for such worship in association with those of the same and of different beliefs. It is a heady feeling – an empowerment unlike any other. It is a clarion expression of Hope for the Future.
A highlight of the annual event is the Interfaith Benedictions of Gratitude, given this year on behalf of 19 distinct faith traditions, during which the prayer-givers are requested to lay an object on the Gratitude Table which speaks to Gratitude in their faith tradition. Dinner participants were also asked to share their personal blessings by leaving notes in the Blessing Bowl on each table. (Results of those personal blessings have been posted on the Heartland Chapter Facebook page.)
When you read the heartfelt expressions of blessings which people shared through the Blessing Bowls, you get a sense of the importance of interfaith community to the fabric of American society: gratitude for “a Nation that embraces…Plurality” and for the ability to gather “without acrimony or conflict” to celebrate ” beauty created across the bridges of difference.”
THIS is the promise and the fruit of the American Dream. Cultural Crossroads is proud to be a part of that dream.