Organizers of an Austin interfaith Thanksgiving celebration scrambled to find a new location for the annual event after an evangelical Baptist megachurch objected to Muslims worshipping on its property.
Hyde Park Baptist Church notified Austin Area Interreligious Ministries this week that it would not allow the event scheduled for Sunday at Hyde Park’s sports complex, known as the Quarries.
The Thanksgiving event is in its 23rd year and invites Jews, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Baha’is and others to worship together.
“The event is an expression of gratitude through worship and is co-hosted by a different congregation of faith tradition every year,” Simone Flowers of Austin Area Interreligious Ministries said.
Austin’s largest synagogue, Congregation Beth Israel, has now offered to host the celebration.
This year, Muslim groups will co-host the event, and there will even be time allowed for a Muslim prayer.
Hyde Park Baptist at first agreed to the service, but then changed their minds, claiming the service was not “Christian oriented.”
“It brought forth how much work we still have left,” Shams Siddiqi of the Forum of Muslims for Unity said.
Siddiqi said planning this event, that is inclusive of all faiths, has also illuminated the differences between them.
A statement from Hyde Park Baptist Church said, “although individuals from all faiths are welcome to worship with us, we cannot provide space for the practice of these non-Christian religions on church property.”
With no other venue set in stone, the Interreligious Ministries were running out options, until Congregation Beth Israel intervened.
“Sometimes you have to work very hard for the chance to do some good, and sometimes it just falls into your lap,” Steven Folberg, Senior Rabbi said. “If we want the kind of world we say we want we have to be open in our hearts and minds.”