Wednesday, 22 November 2017

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Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders prepare or interfaith Thanksgiving service in Suntree

By Maria Sonnenberg, For Florida Today , On 08 November 2017, Read Original

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Pastor David Jahn is used to big crowds at Advent Lutheran Church in Suntree.

The church loves to invite the community to join in celebrations such as Oktoberfest bashes, concerts that showcase its impressive $350,000 pipe organ and programs that put the spotlight on Brevard music and art educators.

This time, Jahn is heading toward uncharted territory with an interfaith event that will join people in celebration during the season of thanks. He would be delighted if a good chunk of Brevard takes up his invitation for a Monday, Nov. 20, “United in Thanksgiving: An Interfaith Celebration of Gratitude,” which will unite Christians, Jews and Muslims to share food and music while reflecting on the blessings of America.  

“We can accommodate up to 500 people at the church, plus another 150 in the foyer,” he said. “We’re putting it together and putting it out there for the community, but we have no idea how many people are going to show up. We would love it if we reached capacity.”

 

If the numbers exceed expectations, Jahn has some industrial-quality speakers that he plans to strategically place outside the church so the program can encompass an even larger audience.

Jahn may well get his wish for a full house and more, for the response to his idea has been overwhelmingly positive from all faith fronts.

“The basic idea was to get the faith communities together to honor and share in each other’s traditions and to dispel stereotypes,” said Jahn.

If you are ambivalent about faith, Jahn suggests you make it a point to check out the event.

“You can be part of a community even before you believe, and this is a place where I guarantee you will be loved,” he said.  

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Centered on gratitude, attendees will focus on affirming shared values and the desire for deeper cultural understanding. Jahn, Dr. Muzaffar Shaikh of the Islamic Society of Brevard and Rabbi Patricia Hickman of Temple Israel of Brevard will lead the expressions of gratitude on behalf of the three Abrahamic religions at the 7 p.m. interfaith service in the church sanctuary, followed by culturally diverse hors d'oeuvres and desserts in the church hall.

Music from each tradition will be performed.

Jahn hopes the low-key atmosphere will help individuals of different faiths gain greater understanding of each other. He knows it’s a tall order, particularly during times when “different” is sometimes considered a definition of “threatening,”

 

“It is sadly true that there is divisiveness in our culture and some faiths are blamed,” said Jahn. “The faith community can be part of the solution. We don’t see each other as the enemy. We are allies for the sake of our community and our country.”

Jahn, Hickman and Samarah hope United in Thanksgiving will become an annual interfaith celebration.

“This is a beautiful opportunity for our diverse faith communities to join together in Thanksgiving hope and joy,” said Hickman. “In planning for it, I have been blessed with new friends and a deeper understanding of all faiths. We have far more in common than differences. For that we can celebrate.”

Samarah expects several leaders and many members of the Greater Brevard Muslim community to participate.

“Openness and thankfulness will bring hope and light to our lives in Brevard and beyond,” said Samarah. “We are one tribe, the humankind tribe, and being thankful together will shine lights of hope from this one nation under God to all other nations.”

Interfaith Thanksgiving

What: United in Thanksgiving: An Interfaith Celebration of Gratitude” 

When: 7 p.m., Monday, Nov. 20

Where: Advent Lutheran Church, 7550 N. Wickham Road, Suntree

Admission: Free

Info: 321-259-8515 or AdventBrevard.org.

Sinnenberg is a Melbourne-based freelance writer.