[editor’s note: this is an older letter by Rev. Leland Steward from Nov., 2015. Sorry, I was not able to update the site for a while]
“Offering our skills, services, or time for listening can be a true expression of our gratitude and appreciation.” –Richard Kimball, quoted in Science and Spirituality, page 146
One of the great challenges of our time is the effort to transcend the different faiths and find ways of communicating that speak a universal language of understanding. Some call it being “spiritual” rather than “religious”; others simply use a language that omits the traditional terms of religion, such as God, prayer, grace, etc. Science is in the process of introducing other elements that in the past had not been associated with the moral and spiritual life.
Thanksgiving is a time when we attempt to express our gratitude for the blessings of life that have come to us, and finding a way of expressing these blessings so that they give meaning to people of all faiths and no official faith. I was present at a Thanksgiving party in which we began the evening by holding hands and sharing with the group what we were grateful for. There was no sense in that sharing that what was being shared was relevant only to people of a particular faith.
To be able to enter into the interfaith world is to change from feeling that our faith is the only one that matters, to where we have respect for all paths, even if they are not officially religious. We are encouraged to make the effort to understand the meaning in each path and to help each path blend into the larger picture of a world of diverse paths.
When the pilgrims first came to America, they had many challenges just surviving the winters, and in many cases clashing with Native Americans. Thanksgiving was a time to give thanks for surviving in the new land. The challenges now center around coming to respect each other and learning how to live without violence and war. In many cases, the violence we are experiencing is the result of previous violence our beloved nation has inflicted on others. Now is the time to be grateful for living in a nation which is learning to transcend its past and to forgive others for their violence toward others and toward us. Together we must find a better way to live on this beautiful planet.
By learning the ways of interfaith, we will be helped along the path of mutual respect and forgiveness. We are grateful for the opportunity to give up violence and to help create a world that is peaceful, just, and loving.
Spirit is One; paths are many!!!