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Faith-filled holidays

Interfaith community celebrates the season

Created date

November 20th, 2012

When Maxine and Bob Kaplan moved to Highland Springs in 2006, their minds were on the recent upheaval wrought by Hurricane Katrina. Our home in New Orleans needed to be rebuilt, and we were living in a one-bedroom apartment with borrowed furniture, in Plano, says Maxine. We learned about Highland Springs while it was still under construction and decided it was the right move for us. What the couple didn t count on was the instant connection they would form with other residents, including those who share their Jewish heritage. Bob and I were walking around the residence buildings shortly after we moved in when we noticed a mezuzah on one of the doorframes, says Maxine. A mezuzah is a piece of parchment inscribed with verses from the Torah, encased in wood, stone, or metal and affixed to the doorframe of a Jewish residence, according to Deuteronomy 6:9, Write [these commandments] on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. We met the couple who live in that apartment, Ted and Phyllis Seloff, and we just clicked, says Maxine. They ve become two of our closest friends. Now the two couples gather with other Jewish residents on the second Friday of each month for a Shabbat dinner. Each Passover, they share a Seder meal. And this holiday season, they ll light a menorah in the community s living room during Hanukkah.

A spiritual community

Our residents come from a variety of faith backgrounds, says Lil Smith, pastoral ministries coordinator at Highland Springs. We have several denominations of Protestants as well as our Catholic and Jewish communities. Opportunities abound for residents to grow spiritually. A Tuesday evening ecumenical service provides a mid-week worship experience for residents, while four weekly Bible studies offer a small group setting. The residents on our interfaith advisory council meet regularly to discuss ways to nurture spiritual growth within Highland Springs. We also talk about ways to strengthen the ties to the larger Dallas community, says Smith. Toward that end, Rabbi Howard Wolk from Jewish Family Services is a frequent guest at Highland Springs and recently gave a well-received presentation on the State of Israel, ancient and modern. A Catholic deacon comes to the community each month for prayer and communion, and an Episcopal priest also visits monthly for prayer and the Eucharist. That diversity serves to strengthen the relationships between residents, says Smith. The spiritual life at Highland Springs is richer because of the various faith traditions we have represented at the community, she says. There s an openness here and a willingness to learn from one another.

Clergy-in-residence

Currently, eight Highland Springs residents are ordained clergy. Some continue to work part time, while others are retired from church life. Our retired clergy are amazing, says Smith. While they come from different backgrounds, they share a belief that ministry is an ongoing part of life. They regularly give their time and talents to help others in the community. From preaching at the Tuesday evening service to providing pastoral care, the resident clergy are an integral part of the community s spiritual life. In many ways, the residents feel like family members, says Pete Robertson, a United Methodist minister. It s an honor to walk alongside them. This holiday season, as thoughts turn to faith and family, the transparency between residents from different faith traditions creates a unique atmosphere of celebration. There s a certain kinship here, regardless of background, says Smith. We all celebrate the holidays together, respecting each other s beliefs and learning about other traditions.

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