Many faiths, one in gratitude

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“We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing,” a group of about 70 people sang on a recent Tuesday evening inside St. Francis of Assisi Church in Triangle. At the front of the church, Muslim imams, a Jewish rabbi and a Franciscan friar stood ready to give thanks to God with prayers from the Koran, a traditional Hebrew prayer and the Our Father. 

St. Francis of Assisi’s first Interfaith Thanksgiving Service Nov. 20 included representatives from five faith communities. Out of about 30 faith communities invited to attend, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Lake Ridge, Congregation Ner Shalom in Woodbridge, Dar Alnoor Islamic Community Center in Manassas and the Ahmadiyya Muslim community at Masroor Mosque in Manassas sent representatives. 

“We come together tonight to celebrate the fact that as human beings, we share so, so much in common,” said Franciscan Father John O’Connor, pastor. “So much in common in terms of our experiences as human beings, our desires, our hopes, our wants in life, our challenges in life, but also, even more importantly, our faith in life.” 

After Father O’Connor’s welcome, Rabbi Lizz Golstein read a translation of the Hoda’ah, a prayer of thanksgiving that “traditional Jews have been saying three times a day for the last 1,500 years or so.”

“We gratefully acknowledge that you are Adonai, the father of our ancestors for all eternity,” she prayed. “You are the rock of our lives and the shield of salvation from generation to generation. We shall thank you and declare your praise.”

Imam Faran Rabbani of the Masroor Mosque read verses from the Quran about gratitude to God and gave a short reflection. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s ensemble sang “Bless This House.” Imam Cemal Gumus of the Dar Alnoor Islamic  Community Center read prayers of Thanksgiving, followed by a reflection by Taalibah Hassan, the center’s interfaith coordinator. St. Francis’ Hispanic Ministry Ensemble, joined by Franciscan Father Ignatius Harding, parochial vicar, sang the Our Father in Spanish.

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St. Francis of Assisi Church in Triangle hosts its first Interfaith Thanksgiving Service Nov. 21, with five faith communities participating, including (from left) Taalibah Hassan, interfaith coordinator, and Imam Cemal Gumus of the Dar Alnoor Islamic Community Center in Manassas; Rabbi Lizz Goldstein of the Congregation Ner Shalom in Woodbridge; Franciscan Fr. Ignatius Harding, St. Francis parochial vicar; and Imam Fran Rabbani and Maaz Ali of the Masroor Mosque in Manassas. MARY STACHYRA LOPEZ | CATHOLIC HERALD

Afterward, St. Francis parishioners Pequitte Schwerin and Jim O’Shaughnessy read the Canticle of the Sun, written by St. Francis. 

Father Harding and a group of parishioners dedicated to ecumenical work created the event this year. They were inspired by an interfaith Thanksgiving service in the Fairfax area that rotates each year between St. Mary of Sorrows Church and a number of other faith communities. 

“All of us, regardless of our religious background, can all unify around particular themes,” said Lisa Ostendorf, St. Francis pastoral associate and an organizer of the event. “Thanksgiving naturally lends itself to unity in that we all celebrate Thanksgiving.”

“I enjoy interacting with people of faith,” said Hassan. “It’s really important that we stand together.” 

“One of the things that struck me the most during the ceremony was remembering that Muslims, Christians and Jews are all sons and daughters of Abraham,” Father Harding said during a reception after the event. “So that’s something I think we should emphasize.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018

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