Coyote Marie Hunter-Ripper, who practices and leads traditional Cherokee ceremonies, attends the Interfaith Thanksgiving Celebration on Thursday at the Wesley Hall in Ashland. - Jamie Lusch

Coming together in Faith

A dark-haired man sings to some 300 people gathered in Wesley Hall behind the Methodist Church in Ashland:

"I thank you, yes, I thank you / for the love you give me, / and I thank you, yes, I thank you / for the love you let me be ... ."

The song, sung by David Gabriel of the Church of the Divine Enigma, is followed by two minutes of people hugging each other at the invitation of Interfaith minister Laura Derocher.

"Doncha love Ashland?" Derocher says to conclude the hugging.

Welcome to the 25th annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Celebration. This year's theme, "What Sustains Us?" is intended, as always, to spur reflections and responses from Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Unitarians and others.

Christine Leonard of Ashland, who says her Lakota name is Woman Whose Heart Sings With People, goes first, telling the crowd everybody is connected. She says in her spiritual tradition people are connected not just to other people but to animals, plants, water and the solar system.

She quotes Chief Seattle saying, "Whatever we do to the web of life, we do to ourselves." She plays a drum and sings, "We are one with our Father, we are one with Mother Earth."

Then she lights a candle.

"We give thanks for the Native American tradition," says the crowd.

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