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Interfaith service ushers out Hanukkah, welcomes the new year

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By Corinne Westeman

To observe the culmination of Hanukkah and begin 2017, Conifer’s St. Laurence Episcopal Church and Congregation Beth Evergreen hosted an interfaith spiritual renewal celebration on Dec. 31.

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The celebration, which was at Congregation Beth Evergreen, was an opportunity to resolve, recommit and renew before the new year.

The Rev. Nancy Malloy and Rabbi Jamie Arnold said the two congregations had been trying to coordinate a join ceremony, and said the last night of Hanukkah and New Year’s Eve “thematically fit together.”

“New Year’s is a time of renewing, and Hanukkah means ‘dedication,’” Malloy said. “It was the perfect opportunity to do (a service) together. … We blend. We all pray for peace, and we pray to the same God, who gives us the gift of love.”

The celebration started with a commemoration of the last night of Hanukkah and the end of Shabbat, as Arnold and the attendees sang blessings for the wine, spices and candle.

As he carried the candle around the sanctuary, everyone held their hand up to it — as if to grasp the flame. Arnold said it is a tradition to have both the light and shadow from the candle pass over one’s hand, to remember that everyone’s hands have “the power of conveying love and compassion, but also the ability to bring havoc.”

Afterward, he asked one member of each household to come forward and light candles on the menorah, with all the candles being lit for the last night of Hanukkah.

“May this week begin with bringing light into darkness,” Arnold said.

Renewing, rededication

After the Hanukkah and Shabbat celebration, Malloy asked any couples who wished to renew their wedding vows to come forward.

Five couples did so. One couple had been married for eight years; another, 53; two couples had been married for 27 years each; and another, 37.

Each couple took turns reminiscing about how they met — being camp counselors together; high school sweethearts; at a Valentine’s Day party; sitting next to each other at an event; and reconnecting after meeting each other the year before.

As the couples renewed their vows, one eager pair kissed before it was time — and Malloy gently chided them.

Then, Arnold led the attendees in the “eight blessings of an expanding rainbow.” The group went down the list of colors, with each color representing a different type of partnership or connection — to the Earth, to collaboration, to family.

The final color’s dedication was left open for the attendees to speak aloud. They took turns saying what they wanted to rededicate themselves to: “Peace. Strength. Community. Honor. Acceptance. Honesty. Gratitude. Support. Compassion. Walking in light.”

“We have set the table to hold these hopes for the new year,” Arnold said as he concluded the celebration.

Beth Evergreen members Irv and Marilyn Saltzman of Conifer said the celebration had been in the works for a while, and “it was nice to see it come together.”

“It was great to see new people in the sanctuary,” Marilyn said. “(The celebration) was a wonderful way to end Hanukkah and begin the new year.”

The Saltzmans were among the couples who renewed their vows, which Irv said “made me stop and think about a lifelong partnership. … I mean, she’s my best friend.”

Marilyn commented that the vow renewal was “a nice addition to the ceremony, and it was good to do it with friends.”

As members of the two congregations came together for some refreshments afterward — including “latkes,” or potato pancakes, a traditional Hanukkah dish — Malloy commented that it was encouraging to see the two communities “respond so lovingly” to something new.

Contact reporter Corinne Westeman at 303-350-1043 or cwesteman@evergreenco.com, and follow her on Twitter @cwesteman.