People of many faiths give thanks in Brooklyn
By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Brooklyn - posted Mon., Nov. 26, 2012
The windows of the Brooklyn Federated Church of Christ were gold with light on the evening of Nov. 20 for an interfaith thanksgiving service. The 57th annual program, co-sponsored by the FCC and the Temple Beth Israel Preservation Society in Killingly, brought together people of different faiths for shared songs, prayers, readings and fellowship.
Those who gathered in Brooklyn were reminded to focus on the importance of the season when the FCC choir sang, “Slow Down,” at the start of the service. TBIPS board member and interfaith council representative Naomi Weiner said the song has been a cornerstone of the service since it was introduced almost 10 years ago. “We love it because of what it tells us,” Weiner said. “It's not something we have in Judaism. It's new to us. And when we like something, it's very hard to give it up.”
Weiner gave voice to what makes the ecumenical service so satisfying to those who attend it. Representatives of different faiths come together to share rituals they hold dear. Those rituals epitomized charity, kindness, compassion and gratitude - values held dear across many faith boundaries.
FCC Interim Pastor Barbara Marston has served in a number of churches, but said this service was unique. “Something like this is such a wonderful example, where people can come together who have different faiths because they all lead to the same God,” she said. “We're all connected to God.”
Prayers and poems taken from the Baha'i, Christian, Jewish, native American and Zen Buddhist traditions were read. Candles were lit. Those gathered together read and sang aloud. The offering that was taken was donated to an area fuel fund. And after the service, everyone gathered in the church hall for conversation and cookies.
The service has been a lifelong tradition for Paula Rosenberg Bell. Her parents started taking her to it 57 years ago. “It's just such a wonderful service,” she said. “It's a feel-good service, and we have fun planning it.”
Dolly Boliver, from Brooklyn's Our Lady of LaSallette Church, said it was a chance to think about what we should be thankful for at a busy time of year.
FCC moderator Mark Rollins welcomed guests at the beginning of the service. “We've been doing this for 57 years,” he said. “One hundred is right around the corner.”
TBIPS President Joel Rosenberg called the service one of the state's most enduring and unifying celebrations. “We come together to celebrate as a nation religious freedom and kinship,” he said. “It's a shining example of everything that is good.”
Camy Roach read a Baha'i prayer during the service. “O kind Lord, thy gifts encompass all, the glances of thy favor fall on all. Gather people to unite in harmony,” she said.
Blue Skull Fire walker talked of the interconnectedness of all creation. “We all have a river running through us,” he said. “When you cut a wrist, it bleeds red. It doesn't matter what culture or religion you belong to. We're all just people. We're all on one earth.”
FCC choir member Sandy Motasky called it a marvelous service. “If there were more of these going on, there would be more understanding, less strife and prejudice,” Motasky said.
“Everything is inspirational,” said Weiner. “It connects your brain to your heart. Maybe it gives you the courage to do what you ought to do but never do. I come away from here feeling inspired.”
“There is a sense of community, a sense of inclusiveness here,” said Rosenberg Bell. “We're all here. We're all the same. It's just like Fire walker said. As I looked around the room and saw everyone standing with lit candles, I felt there was still hope. We watched the kids singing and it was the greatest thing. That's what it's all about. It's knowing we have a future. It's hope for the future. I think Rollins was right when he said we're almost at the 100-year mark. Even if it's not us doing it, these children are going to be doing it.”
Lorraine Fox had spent all day assisting with the St. Francis of Assisi Thanksgiving food distribution. It was hard work, but she was happy to do it. “It's a wonderful thing,” she said. “You learn to reach out to all kinds of people from all walks of life. Then to come here and be a part of a service of different faiths, it's such a wonderful togetherness. It pulls everyone together. I wish there were more people out there who would realize what that is and come and take part.”