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Faith-filled holidays

West Houston residents celebrate spiritual underpinnings of the season

Created date

November 20th, 2012

When Ruth and Sandy Herman moved to Eagle s Trace in 2005, the West Houston community was home to just one other Jewish resident. Now, seven years later, the Jewish community has grown to more than 30 people, who gather each week for a Friday evening Shabbat service. They also celebrate Jewish holidays together, including a Passover Seder and a dinner for Rosh Hashanah. This time of year, their thoughts turn to lighting a menorah during Hanukkah. The residents and staff at Eagle s Trace have been very good to us in terms of accommodating our traditions and being willing to learn more about Judaism, says Ruth, who serves on the community s interfaith advisory council. Each year, we have a Seder for the Jewish residents and their families. We also have a community Seder that s open to anyone, Jewish or not. This year, we had over 90 people attend.

A spiritual community

Eagle s Trace is home to people from a variety of faith backgrounds, says Mary Kate Kell, pastoral ministries manager. We have several denominations of Protestants as well as our Catholic and Jewish communities. Pat Camerino, a retired academic administrator and ordained Catholic deacon, leads a weekly interfaith Bible study at the West Houston community. We have about 20 residents who attend regularly, says Pat. They come from a whole spectrum of backgrounds, so we often have lively discussions. While diversity might characterize the group, so does a spirit of acceptance and understanding. Everyone is willing to seek commonalities, says Pat. We recognize that we each have something to contribute to the study. Our discussions are rooted in mutual respect. Currently, the group is studying the book of Isaiah. Before that, they covered the historical Old Testament writings. The spiritual life at Eagle s Trace is richer because of the various faith traditions we have represented at the community, says Kell. There s an openness here and a willingness to learn from one another.

Something for everyone

Toward that end, the community regularly hosts clergy from various congregations around Houston. Rabbi Annie Belford from Temple Sinai is a frequent guest at Eagle s Trace, says Kell. We also have a Catholic bishop who comes once a month for Mass. In addition to outside clergy, Eagle s Trace is home to a number of residents who serve in a ministry capacity. Karen Camerino, Pat s wife, was on staff at the Cenacle Retreat House in Houston and now organizes mornings of prayer for women at Eagle s Trace. It was an easy transition, says Karen. Prayer has long been an interest of mine, and I enjoy sharing it. The community also has a resident-led ecumenical service every Sunday afternoon.

Interfaith celebrations

This holiday season, as thoughts turn to faith and family, the transparency between residents creates a unique atmosphere of celebration. We ll have a traditional Christmas carol sing-a-long, we ll light the menorah, we ll set up the nativity scene, says Kell. There s a certain kinship here, regardless of background. We celebrate the holidays together, respecting each other s beliefs and learning about other traditions.