The Chestnut Retreat Center and Clergy Group of Stroudsburgs co-hosted an online Thanksgiving program, where representatives of various religions and faiths had an interactive conversation on the theme of thankfulness. There was also a major interest in this event in which speakers from four different faiths and four different churches described what Thanksgiving meant in their beliefs. This virtual interfaith Thanksgiving program was held on Sunday, November 22nd, 2020 on Zoom and is also on our YouTube channel.
As is known, CRC has always traditionally hosted a Thanksgiving Dinner event. However, this year was an exception, thus it was held virtually in accordance with COVID-19 guidelines.
The event was moderated by Beth Utley, the Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Stroudsburg. It started off with a video that was specially prepared for the occasion. The video displayed various fascinating answers to the question “What are you thankful for?” that we posed to the youth, the elderly, children, and members of different faiths living in our region.
The first speaker of this special night was Nicole Vogel, the Pastor of the East Stroudsburg Presbyterian Church. She stated that “The Bible is full of passages of people giving thanks to God. The sacred text has much to say about thankfulness but one particular passage stands out to me and speaks to the reformed presbyterian understanding, which is to give thanks in all circumstances.” Vogel further added, “Sharing our gratitude isn’t something we celebrate or do only one time a year, but in our tradition, it is an attitude we should possess year-round.”
Moreover, the program also hosted Rabbi Melody Davis from B’nai Abraham Synagogue, who was the second speaker of the night. She stated “When we’re told to celebrate a feast of thanksgiving, it’s a harvest festival and that’s our feast of Sukkot. When we live in booths and it’s upon that reading that the pilgrims have based their celebration of thanksgiving.”
Additionally, Laura Lawrence, who is a member of the Baha’i faith, added “I’m most thankful that my life has brought me here tonight and to be a part of this special service truly it is. How lucky are we all to be united in love for humanity and to the service of God. I am really most grateful and most thankful to be a part of the great coming together of humanity in all its forms the upliftment of women, the recognition that we are members of one God’s human race. No matter what religion you are or no religion at all no matter what country of origin no matter your culture or your political belief no matter your economic or your social status. One human family!”
Similarly, Reverend Dave Berryman, who is a pastor at Zion United Church of Christ in Stroudsburg stated “We can be a jump start for a much better world coming together like this to worship and to share our time and our thoughts can serve as a beacon of hope for others in our troubled nation. Understanding our differences begins with open and honest communication and allows us to move towards celebrating our common values.”
Furthermore, CRC’s outreach coordinator, A.Ak, said that “Allah Almighty says in Holy Qur’an (Surah 14, verse 34), “If you try to count Allah’s blessings you would never be able to number them.”Another aspect of shukr (thankfulness) as an action is to use God’s blessings for the betterment of humanity. Whatever one is given as a blessing life, wealth, knowledge, possession, etc. that person is encouraged to use it for society and for others.”
There were also additional remarks by Reverend Monica Guepet of Stroudsburg United Methodist Church. She shared some of John Wesley’s quotes on thanksgiving and further added “We’re shaped deeply by the larger group who calls us the larger world who calls us to reflect on so many things to be grateful for whether we are with thread bear coat or abundantly clothed may it be also for you. That there are those around you. They call you to gratitude in this season.”
Lastly, at the end of the program, we dedicated some time to hear about the thoughts and comments of the attendees themselves. There was a particularly positive anecdote delivered by Cynthia Crowner: I have a dog and she insists that I walk her every morning. And I’ve gotten in the habit of going out at sunrise with her and seeing the most spectacular sunrises coming up through the Water Gap which we can see from our morning walk and it’s given me some perspective on the big picture that the sun rises every day and the seasons turn and things change constantly and that there will be opportunities for a reunion at a later time and I’m so grateful that that little puppy is forcing me to to see the glory of creation every day and get a little perspective on my own little woundedness. So thank you God for the beauty of nature and for the beauty of my dog!
We hope to see you all in person at our next annual Thanksgiving Dinner at CRC in 2021.