This year marks the 12th annual Faiths Together observance of Thanksgiving in The Woodlands, Texas. During those years, a network of diverse and nontraditional religious faiths have teamed together to show respect for themselves and each other. They do this by sharing portions of their beliefs and practices with the group and listening to one another while sharing these representations of their diverse faiths.
Groups Involved in Faiths Together in The Woodlands Texas
The event, which many plan for and look forward to for much of the year, is hosted at The Woodlands Community Presbyterian Church. Interfaith of The Woodlands has also become a part of the observance. There is quite a number of varied religious groups who participate in the Faiths Together community:
- Baha”is of Montgomery County, South
- Buddhist Sangha
- Church of Jesus Christ of latter-Day Saints
- Congregation Beth Shalom of The Woodlands
- Hindu Community of The Woodlands
- Humanist Association of Montgomery County, Isaac Asimov Chapter
- Northwoods Unitarian Universalist Church
- The Shepherd’s House
- Trinity Episcopal Church
- Unity Circle of Light
- Woodlands Islamic Center
History of Faiths Together and the Giving Thanks Observance
Organized in over a dozen years ago, a group of less mainstream religious groups started meeting occasionally to set an example of living their faiths by accepting and embracing their differences. Twelve years ago the annual Giving Thanks became their community tradition which many look forward to each year for its beautiful portrayal of peace with diversity.
Events During Thanksgiving Service of Faiths Together in The Woodlands
The festivities began with a French horn trio playing Aaron Copeland’s Fanfare of the Common Man. Next came the Jewish Sounding of the Shofar followed by an Islamic Call to Prayer. Hosting Presbyterian Minister Reverend David F. Jones offered a welcome to all present. Children from a number of the faiths represented presented a song with Baha’i leaders.
As the theme of the year was Cultivating God’s Garden, Interfaith of the Woodlands’ Veggie Village project was introduced as a community garden which will donate back to the community, and a mixed choir from several faiths sang Circle of Life from Lion King. Then a youth group from the host Woodlands Community Presbyterian Church portrayed The Parable of the Mustard Seed in song and spoken words.
The Spirit of Joy Choir from Unity Circle of Light Church sang One World by Mark Hayes followed by God’s Beautiful Garden by the youth of Woodlands Islamic Center. Everyone present joined their voices for the Garden Song by David B. Mallett.
Tu B’Sherat or Festival of the Trees was explained by youth from Congregation Beth Shalom of the Woodlands. Then the joint Faiths Together Choir sang All Good Gifts by Stephen Schwartz. Reincarnation in Hinduism was presented by a member of the Hindu Temple Society of The Woodlands.
Then the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints used spoken word and video for Have I Done Any Good In the World Today? The Humanist Association of Montgomery County read “Religious Pluralism” by Dr. Eboo Patel.
Winding down saw a Zen Mind Buddhist Sangha exercise in meditation. Then closing remarks were from the Northwoods Unitarian Universalist Church, and the mixed-faith congregation closed in song with Let There Be Peace on Earth by Jill Jackson and Sy Miller.
Afterwards the Fellowship Hall resounded with the furthering of friendships across faiths while attendees tasted foods from the various cultures represented. Local restaurants participated by donating tasty treats to complete the evening.
Faiths Together As a Model for Other Communities
Anyone who was able to attend this Giving Thanks observance would have left with a conviction that this is a fine model for other communities who are interested in working together in a peaceful way toward acceptance of diversity. Cities anywhere who have religious groups which respect each other while working together for the common good will thrive in an amazing number of ways.
In addition to the joint activities and projects they may undertake, the experience of getting to know people of other faiths in a respectful and understanding environment does much toward reducing religious prejudice. Such coalitions further cooperation across the community which could even help in reducing bullying and other forms of prejudicial behaviors.
Faiths Together’s annual Giving Thanks Observance took place at The Woodlands Community Presbyterian Church. This network of non-mainstream religious faiths joined in an effort to live their beliefs by embracing their acceptance of diversity. This turned into a yearly Thanksgiving service which is well attended by around 500 people each time. Rituals and special traditions were shared with the larger group – making an admirable patchwork of the religious fabric of the lives of all concerned.