For the Buffalo Grove area, the Interfaith Thanksgiving Celebration has become a holiday tradition.
This year's event, held Sunday at Temple Chai in Long Grove, attracted such a large crowd that attendees were forced to park in the lot at nearby Hope Lutheran Church and walk up dark Checker Road to the temple.
Richard Rosen, president of the Northwest Suburban Interfaith Council, which hosted the event, said, "We had planned for maybe having about 800 people here tonight. And we almost made it to 1,000."
The event, in which eight Jewish or Christian congregations from the area took part, was filled with music, including an adult bell choir from Kingswood United Methodist Church. The choir played the classic "Dry Bones," no doubt meant to underscore the message of interfaith unity, in which all bones are interconnected.
Temple Chai Rabbi Stephen Hart greeted the audience with the words of former Hope Lutheran Church Pastor Michael McPherson, one of the most active participants in the Interfaith Council.
McPherson could not attend because of a life-threatening illness.
He spoke about faith as a bridge that can help us across obstacles created by our biases and differences.
"I see faith and invite you to see faith as that which serves as a common denominator."
Rev. Martha Halls of Hope Lutheran Church said, "In many places it would be impossible to do what we are doing tonight.
"We live in a world that encourages us to demonize those who are not like us."
She illustrated with the story of a 3-year-old niece who bit another niece the same age because the other "was going to bite me back."
She reminded the audience that, "God is tuning us to be instruments to serve a broken and hurting world."
Rabbi Barry Cohen of Temple Chai shared his experience in volunteering at the Ark, serving meals to the needy. He emphasized the importance of treating one another as children of God, as well as the importance of sacred action.
"For us, actions are a means of consecration.
"We have more resources, both material and spiritual than we ever imagined. We have plenty to share, beyond our families, beyond our neighborhoods and beyond our fellow congregations."
Rev. James Preston of Kingswood United Methodist Church shared a humorous story of family unity about a family reunion he and a cousin arranged for their grandfather.
The logistics proved complicated as the family roster grew, but in the end, "My grandfather, on that day, was so blessed. He was happy, and his happiness and his blessing and his joy spread across that huge hall as people reconnected and laughed together."
One of the highlights was the Muppet-esque performance by the "Glory Fingers" Creative Ministry Team from Kingswood United Methodist Church. The group sang "Tell God About It," paraphrasing the lyrics to a Billy Joel song.