WINTHROP — Just as a tree germinates and gives fruit, Tu BiSh’vat and Martin Luther King Jr. Day coincided, reminding people at Winthrop Congregational Church on Monday to grow community.

The Winthrop Area Ministerial Association and Capital Area Multifaith Association celebrated the two holidays Monday with a seder meal and a presentation on the Poor People’s Campaign, both promoting environmental and social stewardship and justice.

“(This is) about how to grow something,” said Natalie Shribman, a rabbinical student from Cincinnati working for the Center for Small Town Jewish Life in Maine at Colby College. “(It’s about) how to sprout a community, how to bring people together around a new holiday, around new people to grow together and to build a new community, just as MLK brought together all kinds of different people and faith around the holidays.”

The Jewish holiday means literally “the new year of the trees,” and in Israel, this was when a census of trees and their fruit was taken. The meal gave participants the opportunity to explore their place in the Earth community.

“We shared around our table what faith we were all from, and we felt that being a together over a table sharing a meal gave us fullness,” said Marty Soule, a member of the Unitarian Universalist Community Church in Augusta and Peaceful Heart Sangha.

Soule is also a member of the Faith Outreach Committee for the Poor People’s Campaign.

Representing varied faiths at Monday’s event were members of Winthrop Congregational Church, St. Francis Xavier Parish, Winthrop Friends Meeting, Temple Beth El in Augusta, UUCC in Augusta, Peaceful Heart Sangha and others.

“Our particular faith communities enjoy spending time together,” said the Rev. Chrissy Cataldo of Winthrop Congregational Church. “It’s a thing this town does well.”

By drinking and mixing white and red grape juice, the seder meal celebrated the change of the season and cycle of the year. At each blessing of fruit, vegetables and seeds, there was a time of reflection on individual impact on the Earth.

“The festival celebrates what the Earth can give us,” said Rabbi Erica Asch from Temple Beth El.

The MLK celebration is in its ninth year, and this year heard from representatives from the Poor People’s Campaign, which seeks economic and human rights for poor people. Organizers decided to have a seder meal as part of the event since it was so close to the Jewish holiday.

The Poor People’s Campaign is named after the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1967 call to the poor to march in Washington against discrimination and poverty.

“There are 140 million people who are poor or low income in the country; 545,000 of those are Mainers,” said Katie Thiesen of Bangor, who on the Maine chapter’s coordinating committee for the Poor People’s Campaign.

The campaign considers environmental injustice an evil along with racism, materialism and militarism.

“These policies don’t fundamentally value human life or the Earth,” said the Rev. Christina Sillari of Portland, who is also on the coordinating committee.

In Maine, the campaign is seeking a reallocation of resources from the military budget to fund healthcare, creating clean energy and infrastructure jobs, and hiring more elementary school teachers.

Abigail Austin — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: AbigailAustinKJ

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