Clergy Corner, Nov. 9, 2018

Clergy Corner, Nov. 9, 2018

The more she talks to local leaders of different faith groups, the more the Rev. CINDY SHEPHERD realizes they're all on the same team.

"As part of the Interfaith Alliance, we are constantly running into the values we have in common: respect for our common home and a duty to care for our neighbors, especially the most vulnerable," says the congregational outreach director for the central Illinois office of Faith in Place.

Later this month, Shepherd and a number of other faith leaders will join forces to offer thanks for all things good at the Champaign County Interfaith Alliance Thanksgiving Celebration.

It's becoming something of a C-U holiday season tradition, with the Nov. 18 gathering at Krannert Center's Foellinger Great Hall being the third installment. This year's theme: "United in Diversity," an especially timely cause to rally around now, says the Rev. SHERYL PALMER, senior pastor at Champaign's Faith United Methodist.

Unthinkable headlines about mass shootings at houses of worship in recent years — from Pittsburgh's Tree of Life Synagogue to South Carolina's Emanuel AME Church to suburban Minneapolis' Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center — have driven home the need for interfaith events like the one scheduled here for the Sunday prior to Thanksgiving, Palmer says.

"We are thrilled that we were planning this before the (Oct. 27) tragedy in Pittsburgh," she says. "We come together monthly because of tragedies like this around the world. Our desire is that this community in Champaign-Urbana overcome some of that. We want to come together in love."

Times of conflict are good times to turn to God, local faith leaders say.

"When some are seeking to amplify divisions and sow seeds of fear and distrust, it is important that we find ways to come together and lift up love and fellowship," says Rabbi ALAN COOK of Sinai Temple, who serves as chairman of the Interfaith Alliance. "We look into one another's eyes, and we find God — however we may experience God — looking back."

Last year's event drew 300 people from at least 30 faith communities, including Muslim, Jewish and Baha'i members.

Palmer says this year's event will be more music-based than the previous two, with performances by an interfaith children's and adult choir. Members of different faith communities will also give readings throughout the 90-minute program, which starts at 3 p.m.

While admission is free, participants are encouraged to bring nonperishable food to donate to the Eastern Illinois Foodbank.

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