On Nov 20th, it was, for the first time since 2004, our turn to host New Brunswickâ€™s Interfaith Thanksgiving Service. And what a great experience it was! Our historic pulpit served three faiths that day. Hebrew chanting, Arabic call to prayer, and traditional Christian hymns â€“ all of this combined in our beautiful sanctuary. Two newspapers, the Home News Tribune and the Star Ledger, reported on this. Ebru TV, a New Jersey-based Turkish TV channel, filmed the event and conducted interviews afterwards.
The reception that followed had been prepared by many hands. Especially noteworthy was a variety of Jewish and Turkish desserts that are not too often seen on our premises. A special thank you goes out to Ethel Salamone and Joan Fekete who coordinated a great kitchen crew. Thanks to their work we others had time to mingle with the many guests from the participating houses of worship. There was also opportunity to meet Freeholder Director David Crabiel, City Historian George Dawson and Commissioner Cathy Carrigan. Commissioner Carrigan represented the Middlesex County Cultural and Heritage Commission whose grant makes our lunchtime concerts possible.
Why did we host this event? The reporters asked this question repeatedly. The main reason is that through events like these we contribute here at the local level to inter-religious peace and understanding. For many of us it is not enough to just get upset over the news every night, when our TV screens show us pictures of the many wars in this world. Rather, we want to do something. So, if they cannot find tolerance and peace somewhere else, we can start with it here.
All of this came together beautifully when we sang the old Native American hymn Many and Great on Tuesday night together. For this, Pastor Susan played a Native American drum, accompanied by Viktoriya Raufova on the piano and Ellen Hamilton on the flute. It took only a few measures, and Burak Alptekin and Emrah Arslan, our Muslim friends from Turkey left their pew, picked up their drums, and joined in this great Thanksgiving song.It was a very moving moment, and the Star Ledger acknowledged it with a large photograph. Letâ€™s hope that we will have many more interfaith services of this kind.
The participating guests came from these houses of worship: Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple, Christ Episcopal Church, Emanuel Lutheran Church, Raritan Interfaith Dialogue Center, United Methodist Church at New Brunswick.
Participants in the planningÂ [from the left] Viktoriya Raufova, Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Eaton of Emanuel Lutheran Church, Rabbi Dan Fellman from Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple, Dr. Nuray Tugrul YurtÂ Â from the Raritan Interfaith Dialogue Center, Rev. Dr. Hartmut Kramer-Mills, Rev. Dr. Syndney Sadio from the United Methodist Church, andÂ Ms. Sedide Betul Ozturk from the Raritan Interfaith Dialogue Center.