For 27 years, the Interfaith Round Table of Washtenaw County has held a Celebration of Thanks event around Thanksgiving. This year, they will gather online to honor the connection to nature and to hold an interfaith celebration of thanks and joyful perseverance.
WEMU'S Lisa Barry talks with Renee Roederer, director of the Interfaith Round Table of Washtenaw County, about the organization and its upcoming gratitude event.
Lisa Barry: You're listening to 89 One WEMU, and this is Art and Soul. I'm Lisa Barry, and, this week, Art and Soul is about the art of well-being. With Thanksgiving just ahead, it seemed appropriate that, for this segment this week, we could focus on gratitude, which, for some, is a daily habit of giving thanks any time of the year. Our guest is Renee Roederer, director of the Interfaith Round Table of Washtenaw County, and we're so glad you could talk to us.
Renee Roederer: Oh, I'm delighted to be with you. Thank you.
Lisa Barry: You're getting ready to host your annual celebration of thanks and joyful perseverance. But for those who may not be familiar, can you start out with a bit of a description? Tell us about the Round Table.
Renee Roederer: Yeah, the Interfaith Round Table of Washtenaw County is an interfaith and interspiritual dialog community. So, we bring people together from all walks of life, different faith traditions, different ways of making meaning in the world. And we come together, and we have really meaningful conversation together, and it's a joy. So, this weekend, everyone will be gathered Sunday, November 21st. We will have our celebration of thanks there together. We will have music and reflection and speakers. And this year, we will be reflecting on the theme "joyful perseverance," and I think we need to honor both of those things ways of finding joy and making meaning from that in our lives, especially in a time when we have needed to persevere and move through these last years of the pandemic. So, we're really looking forward to it.
Lisa Barry: How many years have you been doing this?
Renee Roederer: We have been doing this for 27 years. We realized we had a great opportunity to give thanks for the land upon which we live, to give thanks for nature and all that that provides for us, too. So, we will be expressing gratitude in that way as well.
Lisa Barry: You are the director of the Interfaith Round Table of Washtenaw County, but does that necessarily have to be a religious thing?
Renee Roederer: I know many people that we're connected to are a part of a variety of organized religious communities, but we also have people who are religiously unaffiliated, people who may not even be serious but want to make meaning and and engage in spiritual practice. And so, we are a community for all people to come and to talk about what gives them joy and purpose and value. We have conversation, and then we also find ways to work together and try to to build upon those values that we share and to put them into action right here in Washtenaw County.
Lisa Barry: So, Thanksgiving just around the corner. Let's talk about gratitude for a minute. I mean, that's the essence of what this event is about. Is it not?
Renee Roederer: Yeah, absolutely. How can we find ways to practice that gratitude to honor that? You think about the things that have brought us through these last couple of years and to say thank you, to have gratitude. And that, of course, impacts our bodies and impacts our minds and impacts our relationships. So we want to honor that.
Lisa Barry: I think it's been medically proven that gratitude can literally change your body or your mind or your experience around just being in that place.
Renee Roederer: Absolutely. It's definitely a cornerstone of well-being. And that's not to say that there aren't moments of deep pain--
Lisa Barry: Right.
Renee Roederer: Or a deep grief, but it is, in fact, to find those moments of gratitude, especially in those times that can really get us through. So, I feel like that theme of joyful perseverance is really appropriate to that kind of experience.
Lisa Barry: And how, at this time in our humanity, do we find that joyful perseverance?
Renee Roederer: I think in living this time of pandemic, certainly we've had moments to recognize what is most meaningful to us. What are our priorities? What of those little moments even that give us delight and to keep prioritizing those making space for those making deliberate time, you know? And what do we need to push to the backburner or maybe let go of so that we can prioritize those people, those relationships, those communities, those personal practices that give us delight and give us that gratitude. So, I think we have an occasion to invite ourselves and to invite each other to that any time, which is wonderful.
Lisa Barry: And you're having this event on Sunday. Who is invited, speaking of being invited?
Renee Roederer: Yeah. So, anybody is welcome to come. We would be absolutely delighted to have you.
Lisa Barry: Originally, this was going to be outside in Gallup Park. What happened to that plan?
Renee Roederer: Yeah, we are sad about that. But with COVID numbers on the rise in Washtenaw County and also a really difficult flu strain going on at the University of Michigan, we've decided to pivot this to Zoom. And we do know that many people are Zoomed out. But what we are excited about is the occasion to bring people together who come from a variety of walks of life, to talk about joy, to talk about gratitude. And we are really looking forward to what everyone will bring. So, this allows us to hear from speakers, have some music, and also have a more conversational event. So, we're really looking forward to people bringing their own reflections.
Lisa Barry: Even though it's online and virtual, the intention is still there and hopefully the sense people will get from this event is still there?
Renee Roederer: Absolutely. It's going to be very connection on it. It's always a great occasion to meet neighbors, and I think when we can pivot more toward a conversational style, that absolutely gives us an opportunity to do just that. We've got some fun songs that we'll be singing. And I think it will be really meaningful, but I think it will be a gathering where people can build upon friendships that have lasted even more than a quarter century, or meet people who are brand new. And we look forward to that. We are additionally having a reflection event over Zoom at seven p.m. So, if that's a better fit for someone, you can find that information on our website. That Zoom event will also happen at seven p.m. If that fits better, that's great.
Lisa Barry: And even though we're talking about the Interfaith Round Table of Washtenaw County, what can you say to somebody who might be listening right now who still might get something out of this, whether they have a religious affiliation or not?
Renee Roederer: Yeah, I would say you are absolutely welcome, but not only as someone to be present, but to contribute in a variety of ways that we gather together within this event and beyond this event. We always want to hear from people in the perspectives that they bring, the views and values that are important to them. And we realize that many people who exist outside of religious organizations have these great values and forms of morality and forms of justice that they care about in the world that we want to hear about that. So, everyone is welcome to participate and receive, but also to enrich us with what you bring. And that does not require someone to have a religious upbringing or be affiliated with a religious community.
Lisa Barry: Bottom line, you're talking about gratitude and joy.
Renee Roederer: Yes. And that is so human.
Lisa Barry: Right.
Renee Roederer: It's something that we could all share uniquely and universally to. So, everyone is invited into that.
Lisa Barry: Do you feel a bigger need for sentiments and thoughts and energy like that based on everything we've gone through over this last year and a half of the pandemic.
Renee Roederer: Without doubt. I mean, we need those moments in order to cope. We also need them to steer us, because, in a time of confusion, isolation, pain, and even loss for some, what is guiding us moving forward. And I think that joy and connection and gratitude that we share can empower us, not only to cope well and move through this, but also to create the kind of world where there is more injustice, where there is more connection, where there is more ways of expressing care toward each other. So, these moments fuel us, they guide us, they can even be the map that helps us discover where we are called and how to do that in the world.
Lisa Barry: Renee Roederer, director of the Interfaith Round Table of Washtenaw County We'll put a link to the event with this interview on our website, WEMU dot org. And let me say I'm grateful that you are sharing this with us here on 89-1 WEMU.
Renee Roederer: We are grateful to you. Thank you so much.
**Special thanks to Paul Keller for providing the Art & Soul theme music.**
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