On Sunday, the spiritual houses of Andover will gather together to hold their annual interfaith Thanksgiving service. This year, Temple Emanuel, 7 Haggetts Pond Road, Andover, is hosting the service, which starts at 5 p.m. People of all faiths are encouraged to attend.
In advance of the service, Rabbi Robert S. Goldstein of Temple Emanuel offers his thoughts on the importance of community gatherings and why people can feel strength and goodness in them.
People marvel at how well we “do religion” in America. When you consider the often violent sectarian strife that is the norm in so many countries around the globe, religious life in our nation seems even more exceptional. We are not perfect; we have our share of bigots and racists, but for the most part, we are free to express our religious faith any way we see fit, as long as we do not coerce or hurt anyone else.
Our celebration of Thanksgiving is a reflection of the best of American religious life. For some, the holiday is an opportunity to gather with friends and family, eat traditional fare, watch football and plan an effective Black Friday assault on area department stores.
For those with a more spiritual bent, it is all that and more. The holiday seamlessly blends its biblical origins with our pilgrim ancestors’ thankfulness for their survival. We add to that our own gratitude for the extraordinary blessing of having food on our tables, the good fortune of living in a land of freedom and opportunity, and our inalienable right to express our religious faith without fear of persecution.
This has been a year of joy and tragedy. We have seen examples of extraordinary human triumph and on more than one occasion witnessed the face of evil. There is something deeply meaningful about gathering as a community to share our burdens and express our gratitude.
As in many towns, Andover holds an annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Service. It is a yearly occasion to honor our differences and celebrate our many similarities, while giving thanks for the bounty we enjoy, the freedoms we cherish and the liberty we treasure.
This year’s service will be held on Sunday, Nov. 24, at 5 p.m. at Temple Emanuel, 7 Haggetts Pond Road, Andover. It will include clergy from many of Andover’s houses of worship joining in an inspiring liturgy of prayer and song.
This is a festive and joyous season. It is good to take a moment amid the frenzy of holiday preparations, sit side by side with our friends and neighbors and express our gratitude for the blessing of living in this remarkable corner of the world.
Rabbi Robert S. Goldstein is the spiritual leader of Temple Emanuel of Andover.