Joint celebration gives congregations insight into other holiday traditions

By Christie Barlow
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McGill Baptist Church and Havurat Olam, Cabarrus County’s only Jewish congregation, will team up for their second annual Christmas and Hanukkah celebration.

The two congregations will join together to share their music, food, dance, culture and customs with one another.
The evening kicks off tonight at 6:30 p.m. when the congregations will sit down to a dinner of roast turkey and latkes, potato pancakes, among other items. The meal will feature traditional holiday dishes from both faiths.

At 7:15, both congregations will share music, dances, stories and games associated with each religion. This portion of the evening is free and open to the public. Members of the community are encouraged to come and share in the activities.

In addition to the activities, decorative themed baskets will be raffled off with all the proceeds going to support religious education programs at both congregations.

“I enjoyed it,” said Wanda Ritchie, a member of McGill Baptist Church, who participated in last year’s festivities. “I learned a lot about their customs and celebrations.”

This is the second year the two congregations will come together for a Christmas and Hanukkah celebration. Havurat Olam has no permanent facility of its own and meets at McGill Baptist to worship. While members from each congregation have run into each other at the church and interacted, both congregations thought a joint celebration would be a good way to really come together. After the success of last year’s holiday celebration, they decided to make the Christmas and Hanukkah celebration an annual event.

“We thought at Christmas and Hanukkah it would be a great time to share some of our common heritage,” said Steve Ayers, the pastor of McGill Baptist Church. “It’s also a great time to get to know each other and get a sense of where each comes from. We share so much already.”

“Both congregations have a strong interest in encouraging interrelation,” said Brian Cutler, the Havurat Olam president. “What better way to do that than by breaking bread.”

Though the goal of the celebration is to enjoy a celebration together, both Ayers and Cutler hope that by continuing to foster interaction, they will keep on developing an understanding and appreciation for each religion.

Ayers said events like this are an opportunity to help breakdown stereotypes and prejudices that people might have about both the Baptist and Jewish religions. Because it’s an interfaith celebration there is something for everyone to learn, Cutler said.

Ritchie, who plans to attend this year’s event with her granddaughter, looks forward to the event because it is a chance to learn about another religion. She thinks the joint celebration is a rare opportunity that people should take advantage of to help build understanding.

“Christmas means one things to us and Hanukkah is very special to them,” Ritchie said. “I think in merging the two we can learn to enjoy (each other’s) customs.”

• Contact Christie Barlow at [email protected] or 704-789-9140.

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