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.