Congregations from several faiths gathered Sunday to say thanks for the spiritual bonds that knit them together.
The 22nd Annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Celebration, sponsored by the Northwest Suburban Interfaith Council, was held in Buffalo Grove's Congregation Beth Am under the theme "Give Thanks to God, for God is Good!"
The event combined sermons from area religious leaders, interspersed with music from adult and children's choirs and even glow-in-the-dark finger puppets.
Congregation Beth Am Rabbi Lisa Sari Bellows said her son had asked her, "Is the Interfaith service worthwhile?"
She provided her own answer to the audience. "We come here together, because we're stronger together."
Bellows began on a somber note. She said the nation has been through a difficult time in recent weeks as a result of Hurricane Sandy.
"There are still people living in their cars, on the streets and sharing homes of friends and good Samaritans, because electricity and gas still have not been restored."
She also noted, "We know that unrest in the Middle East is once again on the rise."
"We pray for those who are in need and we come together today to express our gratitude for our blessings and for the ability to be of service in mending and repairing this broken world."
For the Rev. Dan Whiteside of St. Mary Parish, it was his first Interfaith service, and he used the occasion to tell the story of his sister-in-law, stricken with cancer in her brain, lung and spinal column who, despite her struggles, is hosting Thanksgiving dinner for about 40 people.
"She responded that she sees the fullness of God's love," he said.
"She is so filled with blessings that she wants to be able to host Thanksgiving."
Rabbi Jeff Pivo of Congreation Beth Judea began with a joke, asking the difference between Jews and Christians.
"At a fancy Thanksgiving party, where we're all together, the Christians will be the ones who silently slip out without saying goodbye, and the Jews will be the ones who say goodbye and then never leave."
But he quickly turned serious, saying that religious difference need not mean the invalidation of others' ideas.
"So while we all come from different faiths and different points of view within those faiths, we can all affirm the truth of every religion for its own followers. What is true for me may not be true for you, but I can live with that. Respect for and support of those with whom we have religious differences is the very definition of righteous behavior."
The Rev. Eric Schlichting, of Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, said that being in the presence of those with different traditions has spurred his own faith to grow.
"For as much as we love to take credit for it, the idea of God's grace is by no means exclusive to the Lutherans," he said, provoking laughter from the crowd. "For me grace is the truth that God's steadfast love doesn't grow from how good or bad we are. It grows from how good God is." His appreciation of God's word, he said, is enriched by experiencing the way others share the same gift.
He added that each congregation individually and the community gathered together show God's love to the world in the ways they serve others, such as feeding hungry people or proving shelter to the homeless.