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Congregations come together in thanks [Old Town Laurel]

In the two years since some Laurel-area congregations began to gather Thanksgiving week to worship together, the number of participants has quadrupled in size. The third annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Service will be celebrated on Tuesday, Nov. 21, at 7:30 p.m. at Laurel Presbyterian Church, 7610 Sandy Spring Road.

The service began in 2015 with three congregations. This year a dozen will participate, including: Laurel Presbyterian, Columbia Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Emmanuel Methodist Church of Laurel, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church of Laurel, Idara Jaferia Islamic Center of Burtonsville, Iglesia de Dios de Laurel, Oseh Shalom of Laurel, St. Francis of Assisi Church of Fulton, St. Paul's Lutheran Church of Fulton, St. Philip's Episcopal of Laurel, Temple Isaiah of Fulton and the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia.

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“We’re living in an age when everybody is either ‘us’ or ‘them’,” said Amy Ruth Schacht, the pastor of Laurel Presbyterian who has helped organize the annual service. “Yet Thanksgiving is an American holiday. It seems the perfect time for people who worship differently to come together and unite around the idea that there’s more that unites us than what divides us.”

The worship service will feature a community choir composed of singers from the various congregations and directed by Laurel Presbyterian’s music director, Natalie Beal. It will also include readings from several sacred texts relating to the theme of light, followed by reflections from four leaders of different faith communities.

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Music and the act of singing itself seems to have a powerful ability to unite people, Schacht observed, which is why the choir has a prominent place at the event. Organizers have also learned that faith communities in Christian, Jewish and Muslim traditions all appreciate hearing readings from sacred texts proclaimed and then reflected upon during worship services.

The first service in 2015 at a Catholic parish attracted about 100 worshippers. Last year, about 300 people gathered at Temple Isaiah to sing and pray together. Schacht said it is hard to estimate how large the gathering will be this year, but that there will be as many seats as possible in the sanctuary. Organizers have made it a point to rotate the location of the event annually among the congregations.

“It’s both a witness and an opportunity for the community to come together and realize that we’re all brothers and sisters,” Schacht said.

Attendees are encouraged to bring a nonperishable food item to donate to Laurel Advocacy and Referral Services. A monetary collection will also be taken to support hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico. For more information, contact Laurel Presbyterian at 301-776-6665.

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St. Philip’s Episcopal Church will hold its 51st Holly Days Bazaar on Saturday, Nov. 18, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the parish center adjacent to the church at Main and Sixth streets. Hand-made gifts and ornaments, toys, pizelles, cheese, baked goods and raffles will be available. St. Nick will visit from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. A continental breakfast and lunch will also be available at the Holly Inn. For more information, call the church office at 301-776-5151 or visit www.stphilipslaurel.org.

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