We Gathered Together

When Different Faiths Bind Us

Photo by Nina Strehl on Unsplash

Last night was a special night in our community. We gathered together at our local synagogue. Three congregations and guests. Jewish, Muslim, and Christian. Sharing our lives and our faith and being thankful for our unity and our freedom to believe differently-and the same.

It’s not the first time we have gathered together. When acts of violence have been committed toward any faith community we have come together in prayer. Each of us believes our God commands us to do so. We also all believe freedom of worship is a sacred part of our American life-as it should be all over the world.

These congregations have also gathered to condemn gun violence and support common-sense gun laws.

This time it was a community of friends coming together in thanksgiving. Side by side, we worshipped. Leaders from each congregation began by leading a call to worship. They explained the significance of what they were doing and why they were doing it.

Then we sang together — songs of thanks to God.

Speakers from each congregation talked about why, in the context of our faith, we align as neighbors. The similarity in views was more evident than any differences. An undercurrent of humor and goodwill pulled us together as friends.

We prayed for the leaders in our world. For an end to war and bloodshed. We prayed for a world of love and justice and peace. We acknowledged the need to stay unified and not fight against each other. We built trust.

One of the speakers relayed how someone had said that on issues of conflict about religion and neighbors, she would always choose her neighbors, because God did not explicitly tell her to love her religion, and did tell her to love her neighbors. Food for thought.

The service ended with blessings and benedictions from each spiritual leader.

What struck me the most was the kindness in the room. The commitment to continue as one community and support and protect each other. The thankfulness for religious freedom and the responsibility to preserve it. The community. The family.

It was a good reminder for me, going into Thanksgiving, to be more inclusive. To look out for the different and notice, they are there. To embrace the neighbors who may not believe the same things that I do. To love them, protect them, and stand up for their right to freedom.

Faith is an interesting thing. For many of us, nuances of what we believe change all the time. I believe that is how it should be.

In my own life, while my relationship with God has grown, my faith has become more simple. I’m not scared of getting it wrong, and I am not threatened if some of my long-held beliefs are challenged. I embrace it. I believe everything that matters; God will preserve. We don’t learn from each other if we don’t listen to each other, and we don’t change if we lock down our brains.

During the service, we sang the song “It’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” or the theme from Mr. Roger’s show. If you are not familiar with Mr. Rogers, you can catch it on YouTube…or see the movie that just came out with Tom Hanks playing Mr. Rogers. The simple words to childhood songs can become more poignant as we get older, as you think about putting them into action in a world of grown-up problems. Or maybe while singing silly songs together, you can’t help smiling, and it’s hard to be hateful. Sing along.

On this day, as we celebrate Thanksgiving in the U.S., say a prayer for your neighbor. Consider your neighborhood our world-and love its people.

“It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor.
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?…

It’s a neighborly day in this beauty wood,
A neighborly day for a beauty.
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?…

I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you.
I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.

So, let’s make the most of this beautiful day.
Since we’re together we might as well say:
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won’t you be my neighbor?
Won’t you please,
Won’t you please?
Please won’t you be my neighbor?”

-Johnny Costa

I write about people, faith, travel, adventure, justice & life. I love a good story. I blog for fun at kimberleymckinney.com; twitter.com/kimmckinney719

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