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Five years ago, the first Interfaith Thanksgiving service brought three congregations — Temple Isaiah, Laurel Presbyterian Church and Resurrection of our Lord — together in celebration.

On Thursday, Nov. 21, 17 communities and representatives are scheduled to participate in a Thanksgiving interfaith service at Oseh Shalom in Laurel.

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“It is such a positive gathering of all sorts of different faiths and traditions coming together in the Laurel community,” said Rev. Amy Schacht, of Laurel Presbyterian. “People care about it.”

Organized this year by Rabbi Josh Jacobs-Velde of Oseh Shalom and Rev. LeAnn Hodges, of Oaklands Presbyterian Church, the service’s theme is “Room at the Table” and will feature reflections by Christine Kennedy, of Bahá’í Faith, Iman Syed Haneef, of Dar Al Taqua, and Rev. Eugene Matthews, of St. Mark UMC, Laurel.

“We are sensitive to making this not a Christian service,” Hodges said. “Speakers have five minutes to speak. All other leaders are offered a chance to give a blessing.”

An interfaith choir — after only one rehearsal prior to the service — will perform, too.

“It is Thanksgiving, a time to be grateful and give thanks,” Schacht said. “Giving thanks and gratitude cut across all faith lines and everything that divides us. “

Schacht said that after the first service five years ago, the three communities of faith didn’t even hesitate to organize another one the following year.

“We did put our heads together the following year to see who else we could invite,” Schacht said. “We invited all the clergy we knew, reaching out into Howard County and down to Prince George’s County.”

Plans now begin in the summer, with leaders of the various communities meeting to discuss who will host and organize it.

“Whoever shows up at the meeting decides what it is going to look like,” Schacht said. “Each year is different.”

A constant throughout the years has been a collection taken for a local nonprofit. This year, both monetary and food donations will be accepted for Laurel Advocacy and Referral Services and FIRN (Foreign-Born Information and Referral Network).

“One year, after the first flood in Ellicott City, we split the offerings and sent some there,” Schacht said. “The emphasis is on the community and coming together to make a difference.”

Another constant is the sharing of food after the service. This year, everyone is encouraged to bring and enjoy pie.

“It’s a way of keeping people there to talk with one another and get to know each other,” Schacht said. “Who doesn’t like pie?”

The relationships formed from these gatherings have established ties, Hodges said, so that when something happens, either locally, nationally or worldly, the leaders have a way to reach out and connect.

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“We have an established relationship already,” Hodges said. “We can let them know, ‘We’re supporting you.’ ”

“I find it ironic that one of the polarizing identities we carry is our religious faith,” Schacht said. “What brings this group together is our commitment to our own faiths and to our community.”

A Thanksgiving Interfaith Celebration will take place on Thursday, Nov. 21, at 7 p.m. at Oseh Shalom, 7515 Olive Branch Way, Laurel.

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