Interfaith: It’s the World Sabbath of Religious Reconciliation

Children lead events at Michigan’s World Sabbath service; communities around the world are encouraged to mirror the serviceSUNDAY, JANUARY 30: Many people around the world look to Michigan on the final Sunday of January to see what unfolds at the World Sabbath of Religious Reconciliation. The World Sabbath website explains the goals of the annual observance that began in 2000.

The idea for this World Sabbath arose in the late 1990s, well before the terrorist attacks in 2001 and the wars that followed. The Rev. Rod Reinhart, an Episcopal priest in southeast Michigan, was heartbroken by conflicts he saw raging around the world even as a new millennium approached. Reinhart, who now serves a parish near Chicago, gathered neighbors and friends to take action. At that time, Pope John Paul II also was calling from the Vatican for a new era of peace and cooperation in the “third millennium.” An annual World Sabbath, held in Michigan and replicated wherever communities chose to convene such an event, was an inspiring idea. For the first Sabbath, Reinhart invited other priests, ministers, imams, rabbis and gurus to join in prayers for peace. His chief collaborator was another Episcopal priest, the Rev. Ed Mullins, and together the two men took the idea to other parts of the world, as well. Today, Michigan’s Sabbath is the signature event keeping alive the annual tradition, although occasional similar Sabbaths have been held in other cities.

Today’s style of Sabbath in Michigan is stirring fresh attention—and ever-larger crowds—because of innovations in recent years by current Sabbath chair Gail Katz, who recently wrote all about the Sabbath’s intent and service. Mainly, Katz refocused the observance from clergy offering prayers to children bringing together colorful expressions of their hopes for peace—many involving music and some featuring dance.

Most importantly, today’s organizers hope to inspire people across the country to see that building a peaceful world is a job we all share. (This year’s official World Sabbath will be at Temple Israel in West Bloomfield, from 4-6 p.m. For directions, click here.) In Michigan’s service today, a young Jewish person will blow the shofar; a young Muslim will chant a call to prayer; and young persons from 10 different religious backgrounds will share prayers of peace. Through the musical elements so vital to today’s service, officials hope all present will understand peace in its universal language.

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