People from all walks of faith gathered last week to spend an evening together celebrating interfaith worship and gratefulness at the Interfaith Council’s Community Thanksgiving Service hosted by the East Williston Community Church.
“We host this every year because we really want to bring people of all faiths together and express our mission,” the Rev. Marcus Tillery, the church’s pastor, said. “It is a great opportunity to come together and break bread.”
The interdenominational Protestant church’s goal for the service last Tuesday was to provide a venue for parishioners from different denominations an opportunity to worship and give thanks together, as well as foster an environment of community, inclusion and understanding that goes beyond the church doors, Tillery said.
The service featured choirs, songs and liturgy from the Church of St. Aidan, Temple Sinai of Roslyn, the Islamic Center of Long Island and the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection.
“The history of East Williston runs directly through the church of East Williston,” East Williston Mayor David Tanner said. “There is no more appropriate place to hold an interfaith gathering like this.”
“Thanksgiving has no denominational restraints,” Islamic Center of Long Island President Habeeb Ahmed said. “It is the best interfaith, intercultural celebration which shows the true human spirit.
“In Islam, Thanksgiving has two aspects: thankfulness to God, and thankfulness to your fellow human being. Thankfulness teaches us humility, makes us content, optimistic. It takes away anger, jealousy and prejudice.”
The sponsors also collected perishable foods and donations in support of the Interfaith Nutrition Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to distributing food to those in need.
“As the days get darker and colder, we have the power and the ability to emit light and radiate warmth through our actions to others,” Rabbi Alexander Kress said.
Kress briefly spoke about the meaning of Thanksgiving and the bridge between all faiths, the Golden Rule.
“What is hateful to you do not do to your neighbor,” Kress said. “All of our traditions possess this truth, that the essence of our faith lies in how we treat each other.”
The service began with “America the Beautiful,” which parishioners and attendees sang in harmony. An Islamic call to worship that echoed through the church in Arabic followed from Imam Hafiz Ahmad, before songs by the Nassau County Jewish Community Choir continued the service. After an offertory prayer from Tillery and reflections, the service concluded with “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”
Afterward, the parlor of the church transformed into an event space and people mingled and “literally broke bread” with one another, Tillery said.
“One group of people brings finger foods and snacks, another may bring hot dishes. We put out drinks,” Tillery said. “It is all about being able to look past our differences and come together over our faith.”