I attended Winston-Salem’s annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Service the Sunday before Thanksgiving this year. Normally it occurs on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, but apparently the consensus felt that were it to happen on a Sunday, more parishioners would be present, as most would not be traveling for the holiday. It seemed the idea was a good one, as about 250 of Winston-Salem’s finest turned out for the occasion.
Last year was my first time going to such an event. I remember that I was a bit wary, wondering what all exactly would take place, and found myself smiling and laughing more than I thought I would. The Rabbi made fun of a few Christians, the Imam took the Rabbi down a notch or two, and the Unitarian made fun of both of them. Good times! Only thing was, I do believe I was the only pagan in the congregation for last years’ service.
This year proved no different.
I’ve heard that in years past, the interfaith aspect of the annual service was defined solely by the fact that Christians of different sects were coming together to break bread. It was a more ecumenical service rather than an interfaith service. That’s why I was so excited to go this year. After witnessing what I would call “true” interfaith interactions from last year, I was all stoked up to see what would take place this year. And found myself disappointed.
Don’t get me wrong. The service was beautiful, and Rabbi Strauss-Cohn was his usual humorous self. However, the Lutheran Choir, the very white congregation, and the sheepish boys in their robes struck me as a standard Christian worship service, albeit with an undertone of interfaith. But then, insert … me.
I’ve never been one to bring coffee into a sanctuary, in fact I would think it’s looked down upon, what with having to worry about spills and the like. I would have to concur that the practice of not bringing a drink, much less coffee into the sanctuary is a good one to follow, especially since I did spill mine. Stupid non-functioning lid.
And then there was the reception after the service. I decided to stick around, mingle with some of the Christians, spread some jolly; network and mingle if you will. I knew about five people out of the 250 that were in attendance. There is now one more person that knows I’m pagan. 😉
Reverend Sides of Home Moravian came to sit at my table that I was sharing with a friend. After they had introduced themselves to each other, Reverend Sides turned and looked at me, asking, “Which church do you attend?” Taking a quick pause, I replied, “Well, I’m the resident Pagan, so I don’t necessarily go to church.” I’m not real sure what to make of Reverend Sides’ reactions.
It could have been a mix of guffawing that he was in shock to be sitting next to a heathen. Or, it could have been he was flushed due to confusion as to why I even felt a need to announce my choice of spiritual path? I mean, he didn’t appear angry that I humbly proclaimed who and what I am. He mostly seemed astonished and perplexed as to not knowing what exactly he should do with this information.
Who knows. I don’t, for it wasn’t too long before he excused himself from the table. Poor guy. I guess I can proudly claim that I can still get the best of ‘em. Even though I wasn’t even trying.
After Reverend Sides left, my friend turned and clucked at me, “Really Drea? The resident pagan?” To which I didn’t demand an explanation from my friend either, for I’d hate to think I was being admonished for trying to have a conversation with “the other.” As I think back to Rev. Sides’ question, I suppose I could have responded with, “Oh, my church is in Nature.” Or, “I’m my own church, as I walk through life using the labels of Pantheist-Naturalist-Taoist.” I mean, there are so many options to choose from to define to another who and what I am and what I’m about, that I didn’t have to use that particular description. Needless to say, this year’s interfaith was not as much fun as last year’s, but it did provide ample entertainment. I’m hoping that for next years’ service, somehow, someway, amongst the variety of Christian clergy, and alongside a Rabbi, and an Imam, there will also be a pagan priestess speaking on the benefits of interfaith.