The Coastal Star

Interfaith 21: Delray clergy group plans ‘harvest’ dinner

By C.B. Hanif

It’s something that any congregation — or, better yet, group of congregations — can do.
This time it’s the Delray Beach Interfaith Clergy Association.
The idea germinated from photocopies of Peace Notes. And the note scribbled across them: “Could we do something like this here? Interfaith Harvest.”
One of the headlines in that spring 2006 issue of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program newsletter read, “Shared Thanksgiving, Montclair Presbyterian Church, Oakland, California.”
Beneath a photo (caption: “A spirit of celebration filled the hall”), a single paragraph told the story: “When Tinka Larsen proposed an Interfaith Harvest Dinner, some thought the idea too ambitious. Her enthusiasm proved contagious and the commitment was made. Over 180 people from Montclair, the Kehilla Community Synagogue, and the Islamic Cultural Center gathered on Nov. 13. Christians, Jews and Muslims planned and cooked together, decorated and cleaned up together. Conversations buzzed around the room as diners exchanged names, e-mail addresses and telephone numbers. Prayer and food, story and song were enjoyed. A member of each congregation shared a version of the creation story. A spirit of Thanksgiving was truly present.”
Well, it’s not too early to replicate that idea across America — and anyplace else where people could use an excuse to express gratitude, share good food and get to know fellow citizens of this planet.
The Rev. Elizabeth Hill, of the Church of the Palms, UCC, shared those photocopies during the Delray association’s May meeting. She formerly had been part of that Oakland congregation. And since it was she who had written the “could we?” note, she had just volunteered to help the Interfaith Harvest Dinner happen.
Hill served on a similar committee two years ago when the Delray group hosted Jewish, Christian and Muslim women on their The Faith Club book tour promoting mutual understanding. At her new committee’s first meeting July 2 at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, she said everyone she had asked had agreed to help. No date or venue was set. But there was consensus for an open and peaceful atmosphere for learning and sharing, one particularly inviting for youths rather having them nodding off to adults’ monologues.
The Delray Beach Interfaith Clergy Association is one of many interfaith groups doing good things that we’ll keep telling about here.
Montclair’s idea apparently wasn’t too ambitious. But congregations can be as ambitious as they like.
So do try this at home. And tell us what you’re planning — and when. Who said Thanksgiving was the only time to show appreciation for life, and for each other?

C.B. Hanif, former news ombudsman and editorial columnist for The Palm Beach Post, is a freelance writer, editor and media and interfaith consultant and speaker. Contact him at cbhanif@gmail.com or see his blog, InterFaith21.com.

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