Gathering Welcomes All Faiths in Call for Tolerance

November 24, 2006

Author: John Darling

Source: The Mail Tribune

In a call for tolerance, peace and a respect for all religious traditions as spokes of the same wheel, some 200 people gathered for music, prayer and meditation at Ashland's 23rd annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Celebration.

"I love this -- it embodies the true spirit of Thanksgiving and gratitude," said Annie Funkhausen of Ashland. "I'm one of the unaffiliated people and I love to come together with all the traditions and see how we really speak the same language."

Gathered in a hall behind First Methodist Church, the crowd heard rousing Jewish songs from the Klezmer Band of Temple Emek Shalom, meditated on the Hindu "Loving Kindness Sutra" read by Maya Gayatri of Medford and heard Rich Lang of Southern Oregon University's Omega House call on people to look beyond the day's news to hear the "untold story of people connecting with each other, the earth and the divine" in a "remarkable conversation."

The informal, upbeat gathering has become a tradition for many people and their out-of-town holiday guests, as a warm-up for the big Thanksgiving meal and a kickoff of the holiday season, the day before Ashland's Festival of Light.

It always begins with the singing of "Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me" and ends in a big hand-holding circle, singing, "You are a circle, you are healing me, I am a circle, I am healing you, we are one."