We were blessed this year with a larger-than-normal group of diners at the Annual Interfaith Community Thanksgiving Dinner, which was held on Sunday, November 12, 2017, at the Islamic Center of Johnson County. The 2017 awardee of the Vern Barnet Interfaith Service Award was Sheila Sonnenschein, previous Convener/Chair of the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council, for her many years of interfaith work on the local, national and International level.The 2017 Annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Dinner was a most unique event, in that it took place in an Islamic Center, honoring a Jewish woman, co- sponsored by interfaith organization in partnership with a Christian food-oriented nonprofit. This is the essence of true interfaith relations and a cause for pride and celebration by all citizens of our great community.This annual event has, since 2010, been sponsored by the Heartland Chapter of the Alliance of Divine Love and co-sponsored by the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council, in cooperation with the community. We are honored that this year’s dinner is the first interfaith event held at the new Islamic Center of Johnson County, which was an excellent venue. Diners also shared a unique interfaith experience during dinner, as the Muslim Call to Prayer and evening prayer were broadcast into the dining hall from the upstairs mosque.The gathering began with a flag ceremony by the Girl Scout Troop from the Islamic Center. A flag ceremony led by a Scout troop is not an unusual way to start a community dinner, but this ceremony was special - it was led by young girls who know only the freedoms of America, but whose parents, coming from different societies, know the preciousness of our American freedoms. The child with the small, high-pitched voice leading the Pledge of Allegiance probably had no idea of the depth of emotion felt by the diverse group she led in that Pledge - a group which represented many faiths and dozens of cultures, united in love of country and religious faith.A highlight of the annual event is the interfaith Benedictions of Gratitude, given on behalf of 19 distinct faith traditions, during which the prayer-givers are requested to lay an object on the Gratitude Table which speaks to Gratitude in their faith tradition.Dinner participat were also asked to share their personal blessings by leaving notes in the Blessing Bowl on each table. Results of those personal blessings have been posted on the Heartland Chapter Facebook page. The 2017 dinner was caterd by NourishKC (formerly Episcopal Community Services), which was also the chosen charity for the event. Episcopal Community Services (www.episcopalcommunity.org) has served the Greater Kansas City area since 1989, operatng the Kansas City Community Kitchen (KCCK), a novel approach which blends various food-related programs, including training for culinary careers, food pantries, and community garden projects and is nationally known for restaurant-style food service, which provides dignity, as well as food. As NourishKC, the 501c3 organization will continue its mission to nourish Kansas City and build a food-secure region.Look for additional photos from the dinner on Heartland Chapter of Alliance of Divine Love Facebook page.
Rev. Gregory L. McCoy, Heartland President, presents the award to Sheila Sonnenschein (note the Oath of the Rose on the adjacent Gratitude Table)
The line for the inner buffet stretched the length and width of the hall winding past the Gratitude Table with interfaith objects of Gratitude and a table with brochures from many faiths
Interfaith Prayer-givers (not shown: Rev. Janet Olson for Native American Spirituality)
An intergenerational crowd filled the tables
Nearly 200 people gathered at 2017 Interfaith Thanksgiving Dinner