The Banquet of Community

In 1945, Rabbi Julius Mark of the Temple and Dr. Roger T. Nooe of Vine Street Christian Church encouraged the men’s clubs of their congregations to have a dinner meeting in February as a celebration of what was then known as “Brotherhood Month.”

The men met for dinner and decided to make this “Brotherhood Dinner” an annual event. Within just a few years, the women of the congregations joined them, and the tradition continued as the “Brotherhood/Sisterhood Dinner.” Over the years, other Nashville congregations were invited to participate, and the inclusion of Catholics and African-American Baptists showed the intention to build bridges where the community at large seemed too comfortable with disinterested coexistence or outright segregation.

For more than sixty years, this dinner gathering was an occasion for many to reflect on the role of faith communities in the fabric of our public life. In recent years, leaders from the Temple (Congregation Ohabai Sholom), St. Henry Catholic Church, First Baptist Church - Capitol Hill, Belmont United Methodist Church, and Vine Street Christian Church realized that our desire to include the Islamic community required some fresh thinking. In addition, we noticed that younger generations were not nearly as eager as their parents to come to the “Brotherhood/Sisterhood Interfaith Banquet.” We wanted to continue the great tradition of coming together to grow in our mutual understanding and to build and strengthen bonds of friendship in our city; but we also knew that new forms had to be found.

For a few years, I had been reading about a young man in Chicago, who was doing excellent work with college-age men and women of many faiths. A couple of times, I had heard him on the radio, thinking, “I wish we could bring this guy to Nashville.” When the congregations of the Brotherhood/Sisterhood Interfaith Banquet were looking for a new form to channel and direct their interfaith passion, I thought the time had come. I called theInterfaith Youth Core, the organization Eboo Patel had founded in Chicago, and learned that his work had gained international attention - bringing him to Nashville would be possible, but the cost was beyond reach for a handful of congregations. Then I learned that Vanderbilt was interested in bringing this recognized interfaith leader to Nashville, and the Elders quickly decided to partner with the university.

Funding from the Roger T. Nooe Lectureship for World Peace made it possible for us to reserve Langford auditorium on the Vanderbilt campus for the keynote event on February 21 (see the poster below). In the morning of that Tuesday, we invited faith leaders from Middle Tennessee congregations and schools to discuss with Mr. Patel how we can continue our work for mutual understanding. We’ll only have breakfast, but to me it will be another course in the banquet of community. Rabbi Mark and Dr. Nooe would be pleased to see what became of their dinner idea.

I hope you will join us for the lecture on Tuesday, February 21, at 7pm, and that you will invite your friends and neighbors. We encourage our members and neighbors to meet at Vine Street at 6:30pm, so fewer vehicles will be used and people with limited mobility can be dropped off near the entrance to Langford auditorium.