Despite the frigid Sunday evening weather, the mood at Temple Sinai was warm, as members of the Cranston Interfaith Clergy Association and members of their various congregations gathered together for an Interfaith Thanksgiving Service.
Clergy hailed from several congregations throughout Cranston, including Rabbi Peter W. Stein from Temple Sinai, the Reverend Barbara DaCosta from Oaklawn Community Baptist Church, Father Andrew G. George from Church of the Annunciation, the Reverend Gary W. Bagley from Edgewood Congregational Church, the Reverend Peter Lane from St. David's on the Hill, and the Reverend Scott Spencer from Woodridge Congregational United Church of Christ. Each member of the clergy took a portion of the Thanksgiving, and an interfaith choir performed a variety of musical selections sampling all faiths.
Guest speaker Rabbi Michael Klein-Katz traveled from Jerusalem to deliver his Thanksgiving message: "Cultivating Gratitude" to the group. In addition to his duties as Rabbi, Klein-Katz is a certified medical clown and a master story teller.
"We are here this evening to reflect on the blessings in our lives," said Stein, in his introduction of Klein-Katz. "Rabbi Klein-Katz has a clear vision of how the world should be, and through his actions and his embrace of all he comes in contact with, he makes his vision a reality. There is no better guest teacher to be with us tonight as we celebrate Thanksgiving; as we join together celebrating all the incredible things that join us together."
As Klein-Katz began speaking, he asked the congregation to take a moment and consider the plight of the Pilgrims shortly after their arrival in Massachusetts in 1621.
"What was it like in 1621, not far from here, for the Pilgrims' first Thanksgiving?" he asked.
He read from a Boston Globe article describing the difficult first year that ensued prior to that Thanksgiving, including somber events such as sickness and death, lack of food and shelter.
"If we had been there in Plymouth in 1621, if we had seen half of our friends and family perish as they had, would we have given thanks? Would we have had a full heart of gratefulness?"
He spoke to the group about the true meaning of gratitude, and how it differs from basic manners taught to children from their parents.
"We're taught our basic manners, things like please, thank you and you're welcome, but grace is not just a chant before a meal; grace is a way of living, it's everything we do, everything we are," Klein-Katz said. "Gratitude is an attitude we choose to adopt, a personal decision we make and commit to. It's a way of life, an acknowledgement of goodness in our lives whose source is outside ourselves. Grace is the key to happiness," he said, noting the psychological benefits that have consistently been associated with those who live a life of gratitude, including being happier, more positive, having improved health, building stronger relationships and being better able to deal with adversity.
"You and I can make the most of every day and cultivate gratitude, and here's how," he said, quoting a list of six ways of living a grateful life according to a Harvard Medical School's study of gratitude.
The six ways Klein-Katz listed included: Writing thank you notes to others, thanking others mentally by thinking of them, keeping a personal gratitude journal, counting one's blessings, praying and meditating.
"So this Thanksgiving, what are you grateful for? Think as the pilgrims thought; we are impoverished without God's blessings," he said. "The good in our lives outweighs the bad."
The Reverend Scott Spencer of Woodridge Congregational United Church of Christ, and chair of the Cranston Interfaith Clergy Association, thanked the guests for their presence, as well as for their donations of hats, gloves, socks and underwear that will be donated to the Harrington Hall Homeless Shelter, run by the House of Hope.
Following a final prayer, the entire congregation participated in the singing of "America the Beautiful" and gathered together for refreshments in the social hall, with guests being invited to add a candle to the Temple Sinai banner showing what they were most thankful for.