Interfaith Thanksgiving focuses on spiritual side

ASHLAND — Geared for this year's challenging economic times and shifting political winds, the 25th annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Celebration will address the question "What Sustains Us?"

The event, set for 10 a.m. Thursday in Wesley Hall behind the First United Methodist Church, includes an array of songs, brief sermons, simple rituals and dance.

"The event marks the spiritual side of Thanksgiving," said organizer Robin Noll, a Hindu. "I see it as giving thanks for the Earth and for the fact we need to do more for the Earth.

"In these times, community is becoming more important. (President-elect Barack) Obama isn't going to have the money to work with and we're all going to have to work together better."

Christine Leonard, representing the Lakota Native American tradition, said she will emphasize "Mitakuye Oyasin," which is Lakota Sioux for "all my relations" and indicates the unity of humankind.

"It means we're all connected," Leonard said. "Speaking it lets us feel how connected we all are to each other. If we see ourselves as separate, we feel 'less than' and not sustained.

"Yes, people are scared and are asking what's going to happen to us. I think we're going to get closer and get along with one another. We have to weave this global tapestry."

Representing the Taoist tradition of ancient China, Gene Burnett will sing "Nothing's Impossible Now," dedicated to the new president. "What sustains me," said Burnett, "is music, laughter, friendship and community. I'd rather have 20 friends than 20 guns. Instead of addressing the fear, it will come from a warm, expanded place. It seems like hard times are coming and I don't know what to do other than what sustains me."

Laura Derocher and David Gabriel will lead sing-alongs of "I Thank You" and "Let the Change Begin." They will perform solos of "All the Good Gifts" and "One Power."

Said Derocher, "I see more than ever the need to come together, to be blind to our differences and instead to see the sameness and the common good."

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

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