Great idea: World Sabbath of Religious Reconciliation focuses on energizing hope and creativity of children

Here’s another terrific idea for making friends that cross cultural chasms: Let children lead a celebration. Today’s story is from WISDOM leader Gail Katz about the World Sabbath of Religious Reconciliation, which she transformed into a hugely popular annual event focused on young people. Each week, this website publishes new stories by women about cross-cultural friendships. (If you’re just joining us in mid-January, here’s a look at our best stories of 2010.)

We know most of our readers don’t live in Michigan, but the Michigan interfaith community is inernationally recognized for its innovations—so we proudly share this idea today. After reading Gail’s story below, visit the World Sabbath website to learn more about this idea that you can use, too.



Children are the heart of the World Sabbath of Religious Reconciliation—all of those third through seventh graders who express so much creativity and joy each year! We call them the Children of Peace as they gather to create their banners on white cotton. Then, we staple their banners onto basswood poles, so they can wave them proudly as they march in the processional that opens our celebration. Eventually, all of those colorful, hopeful banners are sewn into our Children of Peace Quilt.

The mission of the World Sabbath is to teach our diverse population that the work of building a community of justice, equality, respect and peace is a calling that we all share—all of us, no matter what our faith tradition might be. But most important to me is the fact that our children, teens, and young adults not only participate—they lead us!

Most of our Friendship and Faith readers live far beyond our home state of Michigan, but you might have heard about the World Sabbath. The Sabbath grew out of concerns raised by wars around the world that raged in the 1990s and continue to rage today. In the beginning, the Rev. Rod Reinhart, an Episcopal priest now serving a parish near Chicago, decided to underscore the message that God is a God of peace. In spite all of the differences and disagreements among religious groups, the central message of all faiths is love and compassion for humanity. So, Rod created and proclaimed the World Sabbath of Religious Reconciliation—an interfaith holy day of peace and reconciliation among all religions, races, ethnic groups and nations. Soon, the Rev. Ed Mullins at Christ Church Cranbrook in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, was collaborating with Rod and agreed to host the Michigan celebration at the landmark Cranbrook church in 2000.

These two pioneers carried the idea far and wide. They presented the idea internationally to the Parliament of the World’s Religions and shared the idea so widely that a handful of cities around the world have followed their example over the years.

12th Annual World Sabbath of Religious Reconciliation

January 30th is our 12th World Sabath. In 2004, when Rod moved to Illinois, I took over as chair of the event. Because of my background as an elementary and middle-school teacher and diversity-club sponsor, I felt we needed to move the focus of the World Sabbath from clergy offering diverse appeals for peace—to young people, our future leaders.

Now, we kick off the World Sabbath on the last Sunday afternoon of January with a Jewish young person blowing the shofar, a young Muslim chanting a call to prayer, followed by middle-school, high-school and college-age youth adding more prayers for peace from various religious traditions. Among the many faith groups we’ve welcomed are: Jain, Buddhist, Baha’i,  Zoroastrian, Christian, Hindu, Native American, Sikh, Quaker and Unitarian.

If the heart of the World Sabbath is youth, the soul is music. Choirs, bands, dance groups and various other forms of spiritual expression reflect many languages, cultures and traditions. We have been enchanted by Hindu dancers, Yiddish Klezmer music, Jain songs, Sikh Shabads, Christian dance ensembles, and Arabic elementary-school drummers. 

The World Sabbath has grown! We expanded so much that the large sanctuary at Christ Church Cranbrook, where the first 10 World Sabbath services were held, can no longer hold us. In January 2010 we held the 11th Annual World Sabbath at the Church of the Holy Family in Novi. On January 30, 2011, the World Sabbath will be held at Temple Israel in West Bloomfield—the first time that this event will be held in a Jewish house of worship. 

This 12th World Sabbath will begin with the beautiful Yiddish melodies of Kidz Klez, a band made up of Jewish middle and high school students. Our World Sabbath processional will include children of many faith traditions, proudly waving the peace banners that they decorated themselves. These children will sing the song “We Are Children of Peace” led by Temple Israel’s Teen T’filah Team under the direction of Cantor Smolash. This year, Ben Falik, co-founder of Summer in the City, an initiative that involves our young people as volunteers, will be the 2011 recipient of the World Sabbath Peace Award. Clergy of many faiths have been invited to participate in this year’s service, and all the clergy present will be called up to read the Congregation Pledge together about building a world of tolerance, justice, faithfulness, and peace. 

What a wonderful lesson for our youth—and from our youth! If you live in Michigan: Please join us at Temple Israel for this beautiful coming together of Metro Detroit’s diverse community to champion World Peace and the building of respect and understanding! It is a spiritual high that shouldn’t be missed!

For our many readers around the world: This story is our way of offering one more idea from the FriendshipAndFaith project for building diverse friendships in whatever community you call home.

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