Annual Thanksgiving Celebration

Interfaith Thanksgiving logo

The Grand Rapids Interfaith Thanksgiving Celebration has been celebrated annually since the year 2000. The event features participation from a wide variety of Christian denominations and representatives of Native American, Jewish, Muslim, Baha'i, Buddhist, Hindu, secular, and inclusive religious communities. We come together to give thanks for the blessings we have received. Prayers, music, sacred writings, reflections and meditation will be woven together with a common theme of gratitude from many traditions.

The human desire to express gratitude is felt among all religious traditions and in secular society. How people express thanksgiving takes many different shapes and styles. The Grand Rapids Interfaith Thanksgiving Celebration is an opportunity for people of diverse traditions to listen, to share, and to better understand one another. No one is asked to compromise their beliefs, just to come together and share their stories, their cultures, and their gratitude.

This event is organized by a committee of representatives that are Baha'i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, secular, and other inclusive religious communities. The committee is chaired by Larry Barton of St. Mary's Catholic Church. If you are a congregation interested in partnering with the Interfaith Thanksgiving Planning Committee contact Kyle Kooyers.

Save the Date! The 19th annual Community Interfaith Thanksgiving will be held Monday, November 19, 2018.


2017: BUILDING COMMUNITY TOGETHER


When we come together to name and celebrate all that we have to be thankful for, we begin to see each other in a new way—we are neighbors in this city and share in the joys of one another! In our shared thankfulness for one another, we open our hearts to say, “This isn’t just my community. This isn’t just your community. This is our community, and it is made all the more beautiful by the life we share together.”

In that spirit, we take time to be grateful for our community. We gather the splendid diversity from around our city to share from each of our traditions—to tell stories, sing songs, reflect on scriptures, and offer insights. Through this sharing, we increase our gratitude for each other and for the various paths that bring us together for peace in this place.
 

This year's celebration was held at Trinity Lutheran Church and donations went to UCOM Client Choice Food Pantry and Family Promise Grand Rapids

Family Promise of Grand Rapids, founded in 1997 as the Greater Grand Rapids Interfaith Hospitality Network, partners with local congregations, individuals, families, foundations, and corporations to provide emergency shelter and viable solutions for families with children who are facing a housing crisis.
The mission of Family Promise of Grand Rapids is to engage community and faith-based organizations in ENDING HOMELESSNESS . . . one family at a time. 

UCOM is the ACCESS key resource center for Southwest Kent County serving Grandville, most of Wyoming, and a portion of southwest Grand Rapids. UCOM operates one of the largest pantries in the city. In 2016, UCOM provided over 26,000 food services to more than 9,000 individuals, contributing enough groceries to its neighbors for over a quarter of a million meals. 

Fred Stella

Fred Keller

Fred Keller, our keynote speaker, founded Cascade Engineering in 1973 with the belief business can complement financial performance with important work in the social and environmental arenas.

Imam - Interfaith Thanksgiving speech


2016: COMING TOGETHER: WELCOMING ALL


Jeremiah & Samantha Bannister

Jeremiah & Samantha Bannister speaking at 2015 celebration

Faye D Richardson-Green

Our keynote speaker was Faye D. Richardson-Green, Executive Director of Partners For A Racism-Free Community

Grand Rapids Buddhist Temple & Zen Center

Grand Rapids Buddhist Temple & Zen Center

In 2016, we celebrated at Central Reformed Church and donations were given in memory of Addie Timmer, Samantha Bannister, and Sister Sue Tracy.
 
Samantha "Princess Sami" Bannister was a member of Center for Inquiry-Michigan and she and her father Jeremiah Bannister spoke at this service last year. On July 17, 2016, Sami lost her fight with a rare form of brain cancer. In 18 months following her diagnosis Sami had a profound impact on tens of thousands of people and was appointed as a Make-a-Wish Ambassador for her passionate resolve to "never give up" and "keep on smiling"! Her family, dubbed #teamtinydancer, is so grateful for the support they received from CFI and Grand Rapids community. Donations collected today will be directed to Make-A-Wish Michigan in memory of Sami.  
 
Sister Sue Tracy said about her life as a Dominican Sister of Grand Rapids, “It has been the best way for me to love and serve God and God’s good people.” Sister Sue coped with cancer no fewer than six times in her life. In her journey with cancer, she was a model of courage and hope, inspiring countless cancer patients with her humor and prayers. She could never have imagined as a young girl that she would come to know the hospital world from the side as both patient and pastoral caregiver. Donations collected today will be directed to the Interfaith Hospice Coalition in memory of Sister Sue Tracy.  

Addie's Pantry is a local food pantry (located here at Central Reformed Church) that provides groceries and personal care items to families in need as part of ACCESS Pantry Network of West Michigan. Addie's Pantry is named in honor of Addie Timmer, a lifetime church member who had a passion for volunteering and caring for her neighbors! This donation will help sustain nearby households with their basic needs!  

Interfaith Procession

Interfaith Procession

Reverend Katherine Lee Baker

Reverend Katherine Lee Baker

Bahai choir

Bahai choir

Check out articles about this year's celebration by The Banner and The Rapidian!


2015: UNITY THROUGH DIVERSITY


Video of Celebration

Truly, gratitude knows no borders and no language barriers. It is not limited by class, race, or creed. It is as natural as the wind, as varied as the flowers, as inexhaustible as the sun. Even those of us who have experienced incredible hardship in our lives receive many blessings, for which we are thankful. Let us take time to be grateful. Let us set aside our preoccupations, worries, distractions, and fears. And be fully aware of all for which we can be grateful. Tonight, we take advantage of a special opportunity to sharpen our attention and be thankful for one another. Tonight, we gather the splendid diversity from around our city to tell stories, sing songs, reflect for a moment, and share insights. And by this sharing, we increase our gratitude for each other and for the various paths that bring us together in this place. 

In 2015, we celebrated at Trinity United Methodist Church and collected...

Congress Elementary is a local school in the East Hills Neighborhood. The money collected in today’s offering will go to support the children, teachers and staff at Congress Elementary. This donation will allow teachers and staff to purchase items that are used every day in the classroom to keep the children healthy and engaged in their classrooms. 
 
The East Paris Community Food Pantry (EPCFP) was established in 2012 by a group of local Muslims looking for a way to put the Islamic teachings into action. The EPCFP is located in the lower level of Masjid At-Tawheed on East Paris Ave. The EPCFP distributes food to anyone in the community that is in need regardless of religion or beliefs. Distribution day is on the last Thursday of the month from 10am-1pm and 5-8pm.  
 
Lutheran Social Services of Michigan (LSSM, now known as Samaritas) creates communities of service. LSSM walks with people in need, offering hope and compassion while upholding their dignity, advocating for equality and justice, and seeking creative solutions. Locally, LSSM has programs for senior living, refugee resettlement, home healthcare, and foster care. 

For more photos, see here

Dr Sahibzada

Dr. Sahibzada

Joe Jones Grand Rapids Urban League

Keynote speaker Reverend Joe Jones from Grand Rapids Urban League

Bharatnatyam Sacred Dance

Bharatnatyam (Sacred Dance): Children of the West Michigan Hindu Temple

Our Thanksgiving Message was delivered by Dr. Sharif Sahibzada, Director and Imam of the Islamic Center and Masjid of Grand Rapids.
 
With the name of GOD, the compassionate, the Merciful. 
 “Humankind was one single nation” 
 Unity is blessing and empowers and safeguard all aspects of life either “in diversity” or “through diversity” without losing the individuality and beliefs. It builds bridges among diverse beliefs to tackle issues faced by the community.  
 The Unity is mercy and disunity is agony.  
 Unity through diversity is thanksgiving and speaking about blessings of GOD is thanksgiving. 
 “The one who does not thank for little things, he does not thank for big things; the one who does not thank humankind, he does not thank GOD;” 
 God reminds us, “O humankind, I have created you from a single male and female and made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.”  
 The Prophet MUHAMMAD (peace be upon him) also testifies, “O Mankind, you are children of Adam and Adam is from the soil.” 
 Humankind have to be united for all righteous and common causes. 
 "United we stand, divided we fall." 


2014


In 2014, we celebrated at Westminster Presbyterian Church and our donations went to the Westminster/Downtown Food Pantry and Habitat for Humanity of Kent County
 
The Westminster/Downtown Food Pantry is housed at Westminster Presbyterian Church and governed by a board that includes representatives from Central Reformed,  First United Methodist, Fountain Street, LaGrave Christian Reformed, St. Andrew’s Cathedral and Westminster Presbyterian churches.  The Pantry provides emergency supplies of food and personal care items to vulnerable people while also promoting self-sufficiency through referrals and education.  It is open to those who live within the pantry downtown service area. www.westminstergr.org/food-pantry. 
 
Habitat for Humanity of Kent County builds hope and transforms lives through neighborhood revitalization and homeownership for families who otherwise could not afford a home of their own. Habitat coordinates interfaith service opportunities as a part of the 2015 Year of Interfaith Service initiative. 

donations 2013

Bahai choir

Reverend Bill Lyons

Keynote speaker Reverend Bill Lyons of Saint John United Church of Christ


Video of Celebration


2013: THE WARMTH OF COMMUNITY


In 2013, we celebrated at Temple Emanuel and our donations went to Children's Protective Services.
 
Children's Protective Services (CPS) program is responsible for investigating allegations of child abuse and  neglect. It is part of the Michigan Department of Human Services. There are times when children are removed from their homes in nothing hut the clothes they have on. CPS does the best it can to provide these children with the basic necessities when they are removed from the home. They most often are in need of winter clothing, underwear and socks. Everything donated tonight will go to these needs. 

Instead of a monetary donation, we are donating clothes to Child Protective Services, who need helping keeping their community of children warm this winter. We ask that you bring children-sized hats, scarves, socks, and underwear so this organization can continue to support children in the Grand Rapids area.

Our keynote speech was given by the Venerable Deok Wun Russell Pitts, Abbot at the Grand Rapids Buddhist Temple and Zen Center

Traditional Hindu dance

Traditional Hindu dance

San Juan Academy

Musicians from San Juan Diego Academy

Dr Sahibzada and Michael Hampton




Page last modified May 25, 2018