Thanksgiving Eve, A night of hope

Rev. Sue Ostrom   -  

On Thanksgiving  Eve the Interfaith Coalition of Southwest Washington held an Interfaith Thanksgiving Service at Congregation Kol Ami, the Jewish synagogue.  This is a tradition that goes back a number of years, though it was interrupted by the pandemic.  It was good to resume that tradition, to take time to give thanks before eating a big meal and all the other activities associated with Thanksgiving.  It was good to gather with people from other faith traditions.  I am grateful for Rabbi Elizabeth Dunsker who took the lead on calling us together and coordinating the service, and to her congregation for hosting us.

This year I felt deeply moved by the service.  Some of that may be due to the pandemic pause.  Much of it, I suspect, is due to the timing paired with the nature of the Interfaith Service.  It had been seven weeks since the attack on Israel by Hamas and Israel’s counterattack on Gaza.  We have watched in horror and grief at the devastation experienced on both sides.  Three days after the Interfaith Service a temporary ceasefire was at last called and some hostages released.

The Service was held at a Jewish synagogue.  As has been true for years, every time I have had reason to go to a synagogue, they have an armed guard present at the door as we go in.  This is a reflection of the antisemitism present even in our country which leads Jews to feel unsafe.  Rabbi Dunsker began the service and we joined her in singing in Hebrew.  The next speaker was Dr. Khalid Khan, a longtime Vancouver resident and member of the Islamic Society of Southwest Washington, who read to us from the Qur’an both in Arabic and in English.  Rabbi Dunsker and Dr. Kham have known each other for years and worked together on Interfaith matters.  After he spoke they embraced.

The service proceeded with contributions from the Baha’i Community and  an array of Christian denominations.  We heard stirring music from the Traveling Day  Drum Circle composed of peoples from various Indigenous Tribes, a solo by a woman from the Latter Day Saints of Jesus Christ, and a combined choir from three Lutheran Churches and Mill Plain United Methodists.

As I left the service, I thought to myself, “When world events lead me to despair (like the conflict between Israel and Hama, war in Ukraine, and so much more), I will hold onto the memory of this night and hope.”  Cooperation and respect are still possible between people who call God by different names and have different opinions on nearly any matter you care to mention.

I can’t fix the crisis in Israel/Gaza.  I can’t end the war in Ukraine.  I CAN work for peace in my own community.  I CAN learn from other people.  I don’t have to agree with them and I CAN respect them.  I CAN hope for faith can be a common bond between us.  We CAN make harmony together in our differences.