The East Williston Community Church’s interfaith Thanksgiving service drew a large audience to celebrate the coming together of different religions and beliefs.
But one person was missing – Monsignor James Mcdonald of St. Aidan’s Church, the man who started the event.
McDonald died a week before the community church’s interfaith event last year on Nov. 16 2018, said Rev. Marcus Tillery from the community church.
Tillery said McDonald was instrumental in urging all the local worship houses to celebrate the holiday in one service and stressing the importance of the event.
“He was a tremendous person and was instrumental in us continuing this,” Tillery said. “He was a founding voice.”
Mcdonald was honored at the service, which included Tillery, Father Adrian McHugh of the Church of St. Aidan, Rabbis Illana Schachter and Michael White from Temple Sinai of Roslyn, and Mufti Farhan, Isma Chaudhry Jeton Zeqiri and Sydria Daniyal from the Islamic Center of Long Island.
“We are proud to be working with each of our faith partners, coming together to give thanks and praise, ” Tillery said.
Tillery said the event was an uplifting celebration filled with “music and hope for a better day for all.”
The interdenominational Protestant church’s goal for the service 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.
“We want to get everybody out of their comfort zone,” Tillery said.
Attendees at the event saw multiple religious services jam-packed into one, Tillery said
This event was hosted in East Williston in the second year in a row, but Tillery said he expects one of the other religious groups to host the event at their place of worship next year. He said the event has been going since 2012.
The event was attended by local leaders including East Williston Mayor Bonnie Parente, Williston Park Mayor Paul Ehrbar, Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss, East Hills Mayor Michael Koblenz and state Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck).
North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth and Town Clerk Wayne Wink were expected, but ultimately unable to attend, Tillery said.
“I asked all of the mayors and other honorees to continue standing so that you might get a picture of what leadership looks like in our community,” Tillery said.
Parente said that during the service her children were coming home from college and rather than stay home worrying she was able to attend the event. She said she was proud the church was in East Williston
She said that when she walks into her own church, St. Aidans in Williston Park, she has an “overwhelming feeling” that it feels like home. In the community church, Parente said she feels like “the most welcome guest”
Kaplan called the event “amazing” and that she has always felt really welcome in the community church.
“I’ve been here for worship and I’ve always been really welcome with open arms and an open heart,” Kaplan said. “I want to take the time to thank all the religious leaders they are all amazing.”