Our community has an interfaith group called the Mercer Island Clergy Association, which meets every month. We sponsor the baccalaureate service in June for our local high school, and we also provide an interfaith Thanksgiving Service on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving. This tradition has been going on for decades. All of the faith communities are represented at this service, sharing music, poetry, sermons, and prayers. A collection is gathered to benefit the local food bank. The public looks forward to this event each Thanksgiving, especially members of the community who don’t regularly attend any church or synagogue.
Over the years, our Christian Science church had never hosted the event, although we usually had a representative participate in the service. Two years ago, our membership considered how we could hold the event in our sanctuary on Wednesday night. We prayerfully thought about how we could accommodate our Wednesday testimony meeting with a deeper desire to actively join the community’s Thanksgiving tradition. Our membership voted to move our Wednesday testimony meeting to the afternoon that day so we could host the evening interfaith service. This was the first time in the history of the event that our church had offered to hold the service in our sanctuary.
We handled the logistics, music, refreshments, and advertising of the event, but at the same time, we had a quiet commitment to recognize the unity that existed with our neighboring faith communities. An article in Mary Baker Eddy’s book Pulpit and Press, titled “Note,” addresses many points about “respect and fellowship for what is good and doing good in all denominations of religion …” (p. 21). Our church’s desire was to open our doors to our community and share the celebration of giving thanks and honoring one God. Another relevant sentence from that article states, “Our unity with churches of other denominations must rest on the spirit of Christ calling us together.” We felt that wholeheartedly!
When the Wednesday arrived, our branch church held a midday testimony meeting, cherishing our togetherness and dedication to our community. It was delightful. That evening it was really cold with freezing snow—a pretty big deal for the Northwest. We were thinking we might not get a very big turnout for the interfaith service because of the storm, and although there was considerable discussion about canceling the event, we persevered and it turned out to be incredible. There were close to 250 people who came—most for the very first time into a Christian Science church, let alone ours. In addition to the contributions from faith leaders, passages from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy were read and a hymn from the Christian Science Hymnal was sung. A local reporter interviewed many participants and attendees, and wrote a very nice article: http://mercerisland.patch.com/articles/mercer-island-clergy-association-hosts-interfaith-thanksgiving-service.
We shared refreshments and fellowship in our lobby, and our members generously provided hospitality to all. What a blessing it is to respond to these opportunities in our community!
Kristin Jamerson lives in Mercer Island, Washington.