Express-News: Metro and State
Prayers of thanks: Annual service unites people of different faiths
Express-News Staff Writer
The ancient chants of the Mohawk tribe of the Iroquois nation mixed easily with mariachi music as hundreds of people representing a variety of faiths gathered at San Fernando Cathedral for a Thanksgiving service Thursday morning.
Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Bahai'is, Jews and Native Americans each gave thanks for their own blessings and also prayed for the poor and the weary.
"It's a tradition that we gather here in the oldest church in the city where people have prayed for hundreds of years," said Father David Garcia, rector of the downtown cathedral. "We pray that God will continue to bless our community. We also come together to celebrate all of our differences."
This was the 10th year the interfaith service has taken place, and it has become an event that Mihn-Phan Dinh and his wife, Anchi, always enjoy attending.
Both said they were especially touched by the service last year and recalled arriving in San Antonio in 1975 with nothing more than the clothes they were wearing.
"We each may have very different beliefs, but it's good to come together and give thanks for what we have," said Mihn-Phan Dinh, a pilot in the South Vietnamese air force during the 1970s.
He and his wife fled to the United States when the North Vietnamese overthrew the South Vietnamese government.
Today, the couple have four children. They were especially proud to be representing the city's Vietnamese Catholic community.
"If I could live 100 more years, I would still not have enough time to thank God for all of my blessings," said Dinh, who along with his wife was dressed in a traditional Vietnamese silk robe used for celebrations. He later offered a prayer of thanks in Vietnamese during the service.
The Dinhs weren't the only ones wearing traditional ethnic garb.
Worshippers also were treated to flamenco dancers wearing dazzling red outfits and glistening gold earrings.
The Rev. Louis Zbinden, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, told worshippers that Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday.
"This is a day when you don't have to buy presents or cards. It's set apart so that we can simply say thanks and express our gratitude," Zbinden said during the service. "We should give thanks for the chance to heal the pain of loved ones. For a child's eyes during his or her birthday. Sometime today, why don't you make your own list."
Michael Williams and his younger brother Robert were there to hear their mother sing. She is a member of the choir at Abiding Presence Lutheran Church, which sang several songs during the service.
Both said they were touched by the different messages the various speakers shared.
"It's good to see that we can all come together. I was impressed," said Michael, a sophomore at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos.
Robert, a junior at Clemens High School, was equally elated and was looking forward to a Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings.
After the service, their mother, Barbara, was in a rush to get home. She still needed to put the family's turkey in the oven.
But, she said, having a late Thanksgiving dinner was a small price to pay in exchange for the joy she and her family received from the service.
"The diversity and the celebration of it was wonderful," said Barbara, who lives with her husband and children in Schertz. "We're originally from Ohio. This was really great."
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