By Tara Macy
Cal-Nev Committee on Christian Unity and Interreligious Relations
The Shasta County Interfaith Forum, based in Redding, California, is a local organization consisting of congregations of faiths as varied as Ba’hai, Buddhist, Mormon, Methodist, Catholic, Sikh, Islam, and Quaker, to name just a few. It exists to promote understanding and appreciation of religious diversity in the community and to work together for the benefit of the local area. The forum supports local events such as World AIDS Day service, Vaisakhi Festival and Day for NonViolence, candlelight vigils in response to discriminatory acts, and the annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Service.
This year’s Interfaith Thanksgiving Service will be held at the First United Methodist Church in Redding on Sunday, Nov. 24 at 6:30 p.m. Traditionally held the Sunday prior to Thanksgiving, it includes an interfaith choir which rehearses the day of the event, and speakers representing the many varied faiths which comprise the council. Council member Laurel Blair, of the LDS tradition, commented that the theme of the service is always gratitude, because, “That’s what we can all agree on.” Representatives offer a three-minute prayer, reading, song, or other gratitude practice during this one-and-a-half hour community service. Lynn Fritz, the chair of the committee, offers Karuk traditional blessings of the four directions, while Imam Abubakr of the Islamic Center of Redding often sings the call to prayer. Other traditional elements include the Redding Friends (Quakers) “Top Ten” list of things for which they are grateful.
Giving thanks is a theme around which all faiths can be united, and a thanksgiving service offers a unique opportunity for attendees to be exposed to different traditions while offering the community a chance to support diversity. Fritz tells attendees that simply being present is a way to stand for justice and equality. Some community members are quite surprised at the variety of religious diversity represented in the small city of Redding.
The California-Nevada Conference's Committee on Christian Unity and Interreligious Relations (CUIR) would like to encourage local congregations to consider how they might cooperate with other churches or other faiths during this season of Thanksgiving. A gratitude-focused service can be a non-threatening way to observe similarities and appreciate differences between faith groups that can be vastly different theologically.
Download a video of the 2017 Interfaith Forum Celebration here:
For more information about the Shasta County Interfaith Forum, visit http://shastacoif.blogspot.com/ or its Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/ShastaCountyInterfaithForum/.
For more information about CUIR, visit https://www.cnumc.org/ccuir. For information about the United Methodist Council of Bishops' Office of Christian Unity and Interreligious Relationships, visit https://www.ocuir.org/about-ocuir/.