Faiths join hands to celebrate blessings
By Phil Anderson
Perhaps more than any other holiday, Thanksgiving opens the door for adherents of different faith communities to come together in a common spirit of gratitude.
Such was the case Sunday night, when a crowd of 255 people convened for the 27th annual Community Thanksgiving Service at Christ the King Catholic Church, 5973 S.W. 25th.
The event was sponsored by Interfaith of Topeka and the Topeka Area Clergy Association.
The Rev. Paul LeDuc, of Seaman Congregational United Church of Christ, said part of the character quality of gratitude is realizing that "everything we have can be attributed to someone's investment in our lives."
"Gratitude," LeDuc said, "isn't an attempt to repay others for the blessings they have bestowed upon us. Rather, it is a way to honor those who have been responsible for making a positive contribution to our life."
Several speakers made references to the ongoing effects of the Sept. 11 tragedies, including Rebecca Otte, of Topeka's Praireyerth Zen Center, who said the aftermath of the World Trade Center disaster has resulted in a spirit of gratitude for many across the nation.
"That gratitude is part of our original nature," she said, "and as we're quiet and as we practice our prayers and meditation, that gratitude naturally rises out of our original self."
Dr. Asifa Sufi, of the Islamic Center of Topeka, said Muslims in the United States have much in common with people of other groups, whose ancestors came to this nation seeking better religious, educational, economic and political opportunities.
"After the tragedy of Sept. 11, all the Muslims in the United States have the responsibility to dispel the misconceptions about Islam arising because of a few people who follow a much-distorted version of Islam," she said. "We are the followers of a religion which teaches peace and love and tolerance of fellow beings, regardless of their race or religion.
"So, we find that we are bonded with you especially at this Thanksgiving. We want to thank and show appreciation for the people of America who are generous, accepting and open-hearted. You make this country one of the finest countries to live in."
Many attendees stayed after the program to visit with members of other faith traditions in the church's fellowship hall.
"We come every year," said attendee Barbara Eberhart, 51, a member of Trinity Presbyterian Church. "I think it's just wonderful. I like to see all the different cultures and be with the different people. It brings us all together."
An offering during the service was taken to benefit Doorstep, Let's Help, the Salvation Army and the Topeka Rescue Mission. Canned goods also were received for the agencies.
Phil Anderson can be reached at
(785) 295-1195 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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