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Beginning of the Council | InterFaith Services at Rossmoor | The National Day of Prayer | Council Outreach | Memorial Day Tree Project

The Rev. Oliver Cowles

The Beginning of the Interfaith Council at Rossmoor
Two months after the first residents arrived at Rossmoor in January 1967, the Rev. Oliver Cowles was here also, organizing a congregation on the broadest ecumenical base. Under his leadership, the Rossmoor Community Church, embracing the full spectrum of Protestants, was established later that same year.

In the fall of 1968, Rev. Cowles met with Monsignor John Kelly of St. James Catholic Church of Jamesburg and Fred Weyte, who represented persons of the Jewish faith of Rossmoor. They discussed the possibility of an Interfaith program and mutually agreed that this would be a worthwhile project.

Thanks to the efforts of these three, the Interfaith Council of Rossmoor was formed in 1968 pledging to promote mutual understanding and respect among the various faiths represented in Rossmoor. By experiencing and learning from this attitude of mutual respect, each member returns to their own religious heritage enriched in their understanding of the selfless Love God expects us to have for one another.


The Interfaith Council at Rossmoor today the Legacy continues

Comprised of three Lay Members from each Congregation, and local clergy, the Council meets four times a year to consider ways in which the three can create a . . .

  1. meaningful combined worship experience, and
  2. work together on community outreach projects.
Presentation of the Colors of all the Rossmoor Communities of Faith as well as the Flag of our Country which we share equally.


Combined Services: Each year the Council organizes two "Combined" Services at the Meeting House. The responsibility for the Setup of Services rotates between the three Faith Communities, as does the Invocation, the Address (by Priest, Rabbi or Minister), Closing Prayer and Benediction.

The Service begins with the Presentation of the Colors to define the Ecumenical nature of the Service, where — regardless of our community of faith — we at Rossmoor are one people coming together to worship our God. One Service is Memorial Day and the other Thanksgiving.

Host Service: In addition the Council coordinates one "Host" Service where one congregation issues an invitation to the other two to attend and experience their particular service.

The National Day of Prayer Service: This observance began many years ago as a prayer group. Over time all members of the community of Rossmoor were invited. In recent years, the Interfaith Council was asked to sponsor the Service and has done so ever since.

(1) Memorial Day Service — The Interfaith Council of Rossmoor observes this day to honor those of all faiths who have given their lives in defense of our country.

An Historical Note: Originally called Decoration Day (because of the custom of decorating graves of those who have died in their country's service) — this is a day of reflection and remembrance. "Decoration Day" was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, who selected the springtime date of 30 May because it was possible to decorate ". . . with the choicest flowers of spring-time . . ." Flowers were to be placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers alike, and was first observed in 1868 at Arlington National Cemetery. The original purpose of Memorial Day was to honor those who had died fighting in the Civil War.

After World War I, the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring all Americans who died fighting in any war. Memorial Day is now celebrated in almost every State on the last Monday in May.

(2) Thanksgiving Day Service — is celebrated by the Interfaith Council as an annual outpouring of Thanks to God, an expression of appreciation for all the many blessings He has given us all, regardless of our religious heritage.

This program cover of the 2004 Thanksgiving Interfaith Service expresses the feelings of the participants and the members of Rossmoor who attended. It was repeated by those who conducted the Service, and enhanced by the words . . .

From the processional hymn:
"Come, Ye thankful People, come! Raise the song of harvest home."

And from the words of the Anthem sung by the Rossmoor Chorus:

"My Shepherd will supply my need, Jehovah is his Name. In pastures fresh he makes me feed, beside the living stream . . . the sure provisions of my God attend me all my days. O may thy house be my abode and all my work be praise."

An Historical Note about Thanksgiving: The gathering which took place between the English colonists and the Wampanoag in the autumn of 1621 in Patuxet/New Plymouth has become known as "The First Thanksgiving." It was, however, not a "first." Native Peoples all over this continent had given daily thanks to their Creator for thousands of years. Likewise, celebrating days of thanksgiving was a familiar tradition for the Europeans who eventually colonized North America.

"Thanksgiving" as we know it today was celebrated sporadically until, on November 26, 1789, President Washington issued a proclamation of a nation-wide day of thanksgiving. He made it clear that the day should be one of prayer and giving thanks to God. It was to be celebrated by all religious denominations, a circumstance that helped to promote a spirit of common heritage.

(3) Annual "Host" Service

Sponsored by the Interfaith Council, once a year one of the Faith Congregations extends an invitation for the other two to visit a Service of the host congregation. To attend is visible evidence of the respect the three show for each other's traditions. Participating in a different perspective on how to worship can be an especially moving experience. The visitor learns to worship God using different words; observe different ways of showing reverence; and experience different ways of using music in a service. As all three share a common heritage it is pleasantly surprising to hear words from scripture, certain prayers and even benedictions which are familiar to all three.

(4) The National Day of Prayer Service

For many years, an Interfaith Service has been organized to respond to the call for a National Day of Prayer. Rossmoor residents come together — regardless of religious affiliation — to pray for their country and for the people and events who continue to shape its future. We will pray that our country will stand for justice; that it will continue to be a haven for the dispossessed; that laws and policies will be put in place to protect the beautiful world God has given us; and that it will be a safe place for our children and grandchildren to live useful and meaningful lives.

An Historical Note about The National Day of Prayer:

The first call to National Prayer occurred in 1775 when the Continental Congress asked the colonies to pray for wisdom in forming a nation. Similar requests were issued by subsequent Presidents as well. In 1952, a joint resolution by Congress, signed by President Truman, declared an official annual, National Day of Prayer. This was further amended in 1988 by President Reagan, setting the day as the first Thursday of every May. This government-proclaimed day is offered to all Americans, regardless of religion, to celebrate their faith through prayer.

[So as not to confuse the terminology, there is also a "World Day of Prayer" which is different. This other observance dates back to 1887, when women in the Presbyterian Church in the United States became concerned about the plight of immigrants and the aftermath of slavery in their country. World Day of Prayer continues as a worldwide movement of women of many traditions who come together to observe a common day of prayer each year.]




The Interfaith Council's Annual Thanksgiving Day Meal

Since 1999, the Council has organized a Annual Thanksgiving Day Meal for those residents of Rossmoor who are home bound or alone for the holiday. On the day before Thanksgiving, volunteers drawn from the three Faiths donate their time to prepare the meal. When Thanksgiving morning dawns the meals will be packaged and teams of two volunteers will visit homes in Rossmoor. They deliver the meals; help heat them in the recipient's oven; visit for a time as appropriate; and join the person(s) to offer a Thanksgiving Prayer on leaving.     read more >>>


The Interfaith Council's Memorial Day Tree Project (1969)

On a stone in front of the entrance to the Meeting House there is a plaque recalling a 1969 Interfaith Memorial Day project. For some years, trees were planted in the surrounding area to remember service members as well as friends who had died.

Because the area is fully planted, the Council now remembers the project annually by replacing a tree, bush or plant, or by installing a bench or other useful addition — all done in the spirit of the original Memorial Day Project.

Each year, a resident donates a memorial wreath which becomes part of the Memorial Day Service and is placed on this memorial plaque.


© 2004 Rossmoor Community Association, Inc
128 Sussex Way, Monroe Twp, NJ 08831

In Memory of Rev. Edward Schulte whose guidance in setting up these pages was deeply appreciated.

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