Interfaith Thanksgiving in Michigan Draws Hundreds

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More than 600 guests arrived at Central Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., on November 21 for an Interfaith Thanksgiving celebration.

Hosted by the Kaufman Interfaith Institute at Grand Valley State University, this is the 17th time the organization has invited people of various cultures and religions to come together for the holidays. In addition to Christians, people of Buddhist, Baha’i, Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim faith traditions, as well as secular customs, were included in the ceremony.

Kyle Kooyers is a master’s of divinity student and Kaufman Interfaith Institute program manager. “As a student at Calvin Theological Seminary, I have the privilege to represent the school and my fellow students in the planning and preparation of the event,” he said.

Kooyers, along with fellow program manager Katie Gordon, invited churches and communities to show thanks in their own way. “There was an overwhelming thread of solidarity and welcome that pervaded all of the presentations,” said Kooyers. “It was inspiring to witness the different ways the message of hospitality and inclusion are expressed across different religious and nonreligious traditions.”

Kate Kooyman is project developer for the Christian Reformed Church’s Office of Social Justice. “We are in a moment when it is particularly important to have relationships—actual real friends who are different from us in ethnicity or faith,” she said. “Now is a critical time to befriend a Muslim or a refugee. That friendship could be a part of a network of support that God is weaving together to ensure safety, freedom, and dignity for all people in our communities.”

This year’s program focused on “Coming Together: Welcoming All.” Donations were collected for a food pantry, Make-A-Wish Michigan, and the Interfaith Hospice Coalition. Speakers included leaders from different communities, and attendees sampled traditional Thanksgiving foods from diverse cultures.

“The Christian faith, certainly the Reformed tradition, is grounded upon the belief in a God of love who comes to meet broken people, who came to meet a broken humanity in the person of Jesus. In light of that grace, Christians are called to the work of meeting others in that same love,” said Kooyers.

About the Author

Kristin Schmitt is a freelance news correspondent for The Banner. She lives in Hudsonville, Michigan.

See comments (4)


Did Kooyers truly "represent" CTS in an official capacity?  That's the way the article sounds.

I woiuld be greatly surprised if Kooyers represented CTS by anything more than self-appointment.

As I read the Bible, there is a staggering lack of support for creating a platform for the worship of God equated with the worship of idols and demons in any sort of holiday unity. Simply put, organizing this kind of “ceremony” seems not to fit any faithful expression of believers throughout any age or culture in the Biblical record. Couldn’t this kind of ceremony be seen as an injustice to the Christ who died to free us all from such a confusion of our source and means of atonement?

Certainly, Christians should be meeting people “in light of that grace…” However, isn’t our meeting supposed to be in the light of that grace, particularly? Does Jesus, nor any apostle, give positive affirmation of false religion? Paul does – at best – as an incomplete searching for God which should result in acceptance of Jesus as the Christ [Acts 17]. I applaud the heartfelt selection of the event’s theme, but it seems incomplete. God certainly does “welcome all.” He welcomes all of us to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus for salvation [Acts 16.31].

If people at the OSJ are confused as to why that ministry experiences lackluster support in certain congregations, I offer the events discribed in this article as a possibility.

I'm disappointed that the resonses to this event, and especially Kyle Kooyer's participation in it are so sour.  I would like to commend him for his work and generosity of spirit as a Calvin Theological Seminary student. His respect and humility towards people of other faiths is admirable particularly as it brings so many people of diverse backgrounds together in harmony for a celebration of Thanksgiving.  It's giving thanks as an entire community that was central to this event. I'm sorry that this was lost in the criticism.