Arcadia Interfaith 2023 Thanksgiving Celebration

Multiple religious groups, in Arcadia, joined together and held a Thanksgiving Interfaith Celebration at the Holy Angels Catholic Church, November 20th. Representatives from different religions took turns reciting the traditional Western folktale Stone Soup, which emphasized the significance of sharing and gratitude on Thanksgiving. Venerable Hui Ze, from Fo Guang Shan Hsi Lai Temple, led nearly 60 participants, including members of the BLIA Los Angeles and the Buddha’s Light Youth Symphony Orchestra (BLYSO).

Unlike previous celebrations, this year’s event was conducted in a unique age- and faith-transcending way. Religious figures did not wear their robes or deliver lengthy sermons on stage. Instead, they took turns reciting the folktale Stone Soup, accompanied by delightful children's performances. As the BLYSO performed The Song of Fo Guang Shan, the audience hopped to their feet and applauded continuously.

Venerable Hui Dong, the abbot of Hsi Lai Temple, expressed, “Environmental and spiritual preservation are inseparable. While protecting the environment, everyone should do it with a compassionate mind and wisdom. Fo Guang Shan promotes several programs with environmental and spiritual preservation in mind, like the Vege Plan A, tree-planting activities, beach cleaning action [taken] by the Los Angeles Chapter, etc…. [We] look forward to continuing [our] contribution and working together with various community groups to help protect our earth.”

Stone Soup told the story of three tired, hungry soldiers who arrived in a very small village, and went door-to-door asking for food, but were unsuccessful due to the village’s poor harvest. Thinking creatively, the soldiers borrowed a large pot from one of the villagers, then added some stream water, and began to boil one large stone. Curiosity and hopefulness began to stir, and the once unwilling-to-share villagers started to contribute onions, carrots, celery, potatoes, seasonings, and other ingredients to cook a tasty, steaming hot pot of soup. Everyone pitched in by setting up tables and chairs, and sat down to enjoy a lavish meal together as friends.

Father Kevin Rettig, pastor of the Holy Angels Catholic Church, remarked that instead of merely tolerating and accepting differences in people and situations, it's better to praise and acknowledge those differences—supporting each other rather than excluding one another. His speech aligned with the philosophy of "finding commonality amidst differences" as taught by Venerable Master Hsing Yun, the founder of Fo Guang Shan. Father Rettig suggested Thanksgiving is a great time for everyone to share and to contribute in their own way, and directing donations toward the Foothill Unity Center, a charitable organization, would definitely help those in need—just like the villagers who shared their veggies to make a delicious Stone Soup.

President of BLIA Los Angeles Chapter, Alex Wu, thanked everyone for their participation and said, “Hsi Lai Temple and members of BLIA Los Angeles Chapter work together and we are dedicated to protecting our earth with practical actions. While protecting the environment, we should also take care of our minds. Everyone should show their love for the earth by consciously and persistently contemplating and observing their own body, speech, and mind in their daily life. This will truly be the oneness and coexistence of man and nature.” Riverside Subchapter’s president, Yuying Lin, said everyone could feel the Joy of Giving which Venerable Master Hsing Yun strongly advocated.

Ms. Connie Yip, Vice President of the BLIA Los Angeles, expressed the event provided nourishment for the mind, body, and spirit, showcasing a wonderful initiative by the various religious groups in Arcadia. Ms. Chunhong Li, President of Monterey Park III Subchapter, mentioned the relay-style sketch involving representatives from different religions reciting the story knitted together a heartwarming narrative of gratitude. The innovative format of the event left a lasting and beneficial impact on everyone involved.