A veritable buffet of faith

    A large crowd gathers in Ashland for a prior Interfaith Thanksgiving celebration. Daily Tidings file photo

    Ashland’s 35th annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Service will celebrate the day as it offers a “microcosm of what everyone wants to see in the world, which is everyone getting along, seeing, hearing and experiencing all the world’s religions in one place and honoring them in the cause of world peace.”

    So says the Rev. Ruth Kirby, organizer of the popular ceremony, which, this time will honor “the Spirituality of Food” as the theme. It’s at 10 a.m. Thanksgiving morning at Wesley Hall of Ashland’s Methodist Church at where Laurel and North Main streets meet. The event offers five-minute ceremonies and music from each of an array of faiths.

    A new twist is being offered by a group of Muslim and Jewish women who have met over the past year to help heal “a lot of tension” between the faiths, emphasizing their “long history of coexistence, what we have in common, of sisterhood and brotherhood between Jews and Muslims and to strengthen the bonds that run really deep between them,” said Helaine Alon, a member of the group.

    She will touch on the rich history of food “as something so much larger than us, a gift, a miracle, a source of blessings, an opportunity for radical amazement, guiding families to reach out to those not in the community, so that the home and kitchen become a place of worship and celebration an opportunity to get to know each other, with food as the driving and bonding force.”

    Presenter Denonesea La Fey of the Goddess Tradition will talk about “how deeply we are related to food, honoring and recognizing how food attunes us to the seasons, from the quickening of life with planting in the early stages of spring, through tending crops in summer and harvesting in fall.”

    La Fey notes they “celebrate and pray and have ceremony about how food sustains our bodies and life on Earth,” as well as the rich presence of food in ancient myth, as seen in the wheat shafts of Demeter and pomegranates of her daughter Persephone, the bringer of spring.

    Local longtime Taoist, singer-songwriter and Tai Chi teacher Gene Burnett will talk about the extensive presence of food in Taoism, but instead of using food as a constant in religious tradition, Taoism encourages us to go with “an inner sense of rightness” because what may seem like the right food for the right spiritual occasion one day, may be quite different on the next day. “Listen to your body and heart and keep on listening because it’s basically an inner system of biofeedback “so don’t force it. Let’s not be rule-oriented. What feels good today might not feel good tomorrow.”

    The event is usually standing room only and takes an hour or just a little longer and, says, Kirby, is an uplifting break from cooking Thanksgiving dinner.

    John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

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