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Interfaith gathering pays respects on Thanksgiving

Ashland's Thanksgiving Interfaith Service will offer a break from kitchen duties Thursday morning, with songs, prayers, dancing, chanting, flute playing and drumming — and words of wisdom on its theme "Honoring Oneness in Diversity."

The event was created in 1983 and gives an array of religions the opportunity to emphasize that, in addition to being thankful for all we have, people need to honor all paths to the divine as equal and good, said David Gabriel, who will host the event with Laura Derocher.

"We're being grateful for all we have and that attitude leads to more to be thankful for," said Gabriel. "It's a much nicer feeling — and we all might as well feel good. When you include everyone, it's a positive feeling, an acceptance that attracts people. We all want to see that coming together."

The 10 a.m. service, including more than a dozen faiths, takes place in Wesley Hall, behind the First United Methodist Church, at Main and Laurel streets. It is free and open to the public.

Graham Lewis, pastor of the Methodist Church, said he will represent the Christian tradition, reading from scriptures "expressing our gratefulness for the abundance we have."

New Thought Minister Ruth Kirby said diversity plays a large and necessary role in society.

"It's to our benefit that we're different," said Kirby. "I love that original Thanksgiving story. It's not just getting together with family, but with strangers — and the Pilgrims and Indians would have felt that. It was the opportunity to be of service and share the table with them."

For the Quaker faith, Bob Morse said he will talk about how Quakers "rely on silence and the Spirit" in decision-making.

"Finding unity is the basis of all decision-making and business for Quakers, whether in spiritual or everyday matters," said Morse. "Eventually, in the process of listening and finding a place where we all agree, we realize we're always doing the work of spirit.

"That is unity and it comes out of respecting each other. We're putting the truth puzzle together and we each have a piece."

Gene Burnett will perform a song communicating his Taoist belief: "slow more, force less."

"It means, be natural, be relaxed, embrace oneness in diversity," said Burnett, "and the less force you apply to things, the more you can do that."

Of the colorful and upbeat Interfaith service, Burnett observed, "I love to play this event. It's one of my favorite things to do. It's one of those great Ashland things. No one is up there for a long time, only three minutes, so if you don't click with something, just wait."

Rev. Norma Nakai Burton of Unity in Ashland Church, said her presentation will be in the spirit of indigenous peoples, that "there are many pathways to the divine "¦ and we should receive everything that comes across our path as a gift."

Reflecting on the day's theme, Burton added, "If we judge a person or are critical of differences, we're perpetuating the split between us, but if we see it (the difference) as a mirror of a disowned part of oneself, it heals the rift."

Participants in the service chose the theme, said Burton, to promote diversity because "we need all spiritual paths; there are many ways to the truth "¦ not a one-and-only truth."

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.