Interfaith Gathering Dedicates Sanctuary

October 8, 2007

Author: Ashley Matthews

Source: Burlington Free Press

SHELBURNE -- It's not often that leaders of local Catholic, Jewish and Universalist churches bestow a common blessing with representatives of the Vermont Zen Center, the Islamic Society, the Baha'i Society and the Vermont Commission of Native American Affairs.

That is just how Shelburne's All Souls Interfaith Gathering ushered in a new era for the church Sunday afternoon. At the first-ever service held in the church's recently completed sanctuary, attendees were met at the door by Don Stevens of Abenaki Nation of Missisquoi, who used feathers from a red tail hawk to wave sage and tobacco smoke over their bodies. The ceremony, called smudging, is an American Indian purification ritual used to drive away evil spirits.

"Having people from various faiths was so meaningful to give a feeling that different religious influences are coming together," said the Rev. Mary Abele, who founded All Souls Interfaith Gathering in 1999. "We're responding to a new generation of spiritual seekers who are looking for something beyond the religions they were brought up in."