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Have faith

Ann’s Choice celebrates interfaith holidays this month

Created date

March 20th, 2012

People who live at Ann s Choice cherish the ability to practice their individual religions right on campus. That s the Erickson Living philosophy, says Allen Bradley, who lives at the Bucks County, Pa., community. Allen sits on the community s 25-person interfaith council. Comprised of Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant residents, the council plans campus-wide memorial services and holiday observances that incorporate liturgies from the various faith traditions. Each faith group also has a sub-council that plans their own services. Most services take place in the 450-seat nondenominational campus chapel, where a beautiful stained-glass window depicts a dove of peace.

Holy Week and Passover services

This year the most important events in the Christian and Jewish calendars take place the first week of April. For Christians that s Holy Week and Easter Sunday. For Jews, it s the eight-day Passover celebration. The ecumenical committee at Ann s Choice, composed of two Protestants and two Catholics, plans the Holy Week services. Catherine Janus, who chairs the Catholic council, is on the committee. She says the solemn Maundy Thursday service, which includes songs and Scripture readings, commemorates Jesus washing the feet of his 12 apostles at the Last Supper. Richard Haddon, pastoral ministries manager, will wash the feet of 12 community members 6 Catholics and 6 Protestants. At Good Friday s service, before residents enter the chapel, they can write a prayer, petition, or fault on a slip of paper and hammer it to a six-foot-long wooden cross in the lobby. When you re inside, Catherine says, you hear the hammer banging constantly. It s quite emotional. The service centers on a Scriptural reading of Christ s Passion and death and begins when Ann s Choice staff members carry the cross into the sanctuary and attach a crown of thorns.

An Ann s Choice family Seder

On April 6, many of the community s Jewish residents will gather off campus to celebrate the first night of the eight-day Passover celebration with family. They ll recite the Haggadah, the story of the Exodus from Egypt; eat ritual food from the Seder Plate; and enjoy an elaborate meal of traditional Jewish foods. People come from all over the country to be with their family for the first night of Seder, says Ellen Newman, who chairs the Ann s Choice Jewish residents council. More than 300 people will attend the council s annual Seder dinner at Ann s Choice, scheduled for April 11. It brings together the entire Jewish community during this most important holiday. A volunteer cantor will lead the service. A sumptuous meal planned by the council s catering committee and prepared by the Ann s Choice catering staff will follow.

One community

Regardless of faith, Ellen says residents feel kinship for their neighbors at Ann s Choice. People who live here become so close it s like we re family, she says. One of the wonderful things about Ann s Choice is that everyone respects one another s religious beliefs and ways of celebrating and observing, she says. There s a feeling that we re all one community. She credits the Ann s Choice staff, especially Resident Life, Pastoral Ministries, and Community Resources, for that. They treat each faith group wonderfully and with equanimity, she says.

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