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Coming together as one Austin faith community in good times and bad

By Jim Rigby
Special to the American-Statesman
Rabbi Neil Blumofe, right, of Congregation Agudas Achim, hugs Rev. Jim Rigby of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church on Nov. 1 as leaders of the faith community gathered to support the Jewish community after recent antisemitic acts.

I Love Austin. When I came here for college I instantly knew this city was where I wanted to spend the rest of my life. I have never regretted that decision for a moment.  

 One of the treasures I love most in Austin is Interfaith Action of Central Texas. The picture above was taken when iACT invited people of faith to support a synagogue that had been attacked by arson. There were also other acts of antisemitism that caused us to close ranks to protect our Jewish neighbors just as they have always done for other communities of faith. 

The picture above shows Rabbi Neil Blumofe and myself embracing. It also shows the Rev. Taylor Fuerst of First United Methodist Church, who is also generous in showing her support for all who need it. What you can’t see in this picture is the numerous representatives from many faith traditions (as well as city and state leaders) making it clear that, in Austin, we are one family, and if you mess with one of us, you will have to deal with us all. 

During my decades as a minister in Austin I have seen our Jewish neighbors rally to help our Muslim neighbors, and our Muslim neighbors rally to support our Jewish neighbors. I have seen an inclusivity and a solidarity in communities of faith that could only have been born from a shared wisdom realizing none of us has a copyright on transcendence. We are also humble enough to realize our differences are what make that unity meaningful. 

The Rev. Jim Rigby is the pastor at Saint Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Austin.

Fortunately, iACT also invites us to celebrate happy times together as well as sad. St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church and I are so honored to host this year’s Annual Interfaith Day of Thanks Service and Celebration. The event is free, and everyone is welcome to attend. The link to register is bit.ly/dayofthanks21 

Spiritual unity is very important for us at St. Andrew's Presbyterian. In fact, our stained-glass window consists of a wooden cross surrounded by a mandala. A mandala is like a kaleidoscope with beautiful colors. For us, the wooden cross represents our particular faith tradition which is Christian, and the mandala represents universality. It is a reminder that we are but one voice in a larger choir consisting of our entire human family.  

It is so wonderful to live in a city where religion unites us instead of dividing us. At iACT, all our faith traditions set aside our differences to build homes for those lacking shelter, raise money to feed the hungry, resettle refuges from around the world, and simply celebrate the miracle of our common life. 

After the trauma and isolation of COVID-19, human contact (even online) is more important than ever. Our nation is so divided right now. It is healing simply to gather with our friends from many faith traditions and to celebrate the fact that compassion is the common thread tying us all together.

At this year’s Interfaith Day of Thanks Service & Celebration, you are cordially invited to celebrate living in Austin where we know we are one human family; and that the Earth is our common home. As we say in Austin, Y’all means all! 

The Rev. Jim Rigby is the pastor at Saint Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Austin. Doing Good Together is compiled by Interfaith Action of Central Texas, interfaithtexas.org.

iACT’s Interfaith Day of Thanks Service and Celebration

3 p.m. Sunday

Virtually at bit.ly/dayofthanks21

Free and all are welcome.

Information: Interfaithtexas.org