Interfaith holiday is Thursday

Ashland's Interfaith Thanksgiving has been giving people a break from Turkey Day kitchen chores for 27 years. This year they hope to spread warmth and a sense of home, as well.

At 10 o'clock Thanksgiving morning, the event will feature Kahana hula dancers, Taoist, Jewish and Wiccan prayers, and songs about the idea of home — coming home, losing homes, finding home at the feasting table and knowing home in our own hearts.

A new twist this year is a call for participants to bring blankets to "spread the warmth" of the holiday season in homeless shelters, says event organizer Ruth Kirby, youth minister of the Center for Spiritual Living in Medford.

"It's about the journey home and how our many religious traditions help us feel at home in ourselves and our communities," says Kirby. "Many of us have a sense of homelessness inside, the absence of a feeling of belonging, within our hearts."

The popular gathering, in Wesley Hall behind Ashland's United Methodist Church, Laurel at North Main Street, has strived to blur contentious boundaries among diverse religions, using prayer, chants, dancing, sermons, song — each limited to four minutes — and incorporating gales of humor, music, movement and good cheer for the holiday.

Dorita Betts Bergerson, UMC's minister of spiritual growth and outreach, will tell a folk tale about God showing up on earth and being treated in two very different ways by those who welcome him. "The story raises the question of how we open our home and heart to strangers," she said. "Home is the place where heart, mind and soul are complete."

Rabbi David Zaslow of Havurah Shir Hadash will sing songs from the Bible emphasizing the presence of "home" in self, family, community and planet as an expression of our gratitude and Thanksgiving, as started by pilgrims and American Indians.

Leading dancers from her hula-dancing school in Ashland, Andrea Luchese says they will demonstrate love and caretaking for the land, describing a specific place in Maui where "the old ways" of Hawaii are still practiced and "songs and praises of appreciation are sung for our sense of home and gratitude for the land under our feet."

Unity minister Norma Burton of Ashland will lead prayers and stories in the tradition of the ancient Celts and their view of home and hearth as "the center of our being and of our tribe and humanity — being together, all different faiths."

Taoist, musician and yoga teacher Gene Burnett will speak his philosophy of "flow more, force less."

This, he says, means an outer search about "what feels most deeply right," including home, with the inner search being about "embracing the whole, as it's unfolding now."

The event will be hosted, as in past years, by Ashland musicians Laura Derocher and David Gabriel.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at

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