Putting aside differences, Annapolis churches join for service

They came from nearly every corner of Annapolis to give thanks in the old brick church in the heart of the city's historic downtown.

Elderly women in wool suits and pearls sat beside young men wearing yarmulkes in the polished wooden pews at St. Anne's Episcopal Church. Teen-agers in blue jeans shared hymnals with children in their Sunday best.


More than 400 people from six Annapolis area churches and a synagogue filled the church with songs of thanksgiving and prayers for the city's less fortunate at the annual interdenominational service.

The ecumenical ceremony began more than a decade ago and has become a tradition for many residents of the state capital.


"It's a wonderful feeling of the community coming together," said Thomas Stoner, a member of St. Anne's, who came to the service with his daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter.

The service brings together the often splintered, economically segregated communities that make up Maryland's capital city. People came from waterfront houses and homeless shelters. Young families sat with single seniors.

In a meditation on faith, the common strand that unites all religions, the Rev. David R. Henry, pastor of the United Church of Christ of Annapolis, emphasized that the United States is a nation "based on the concept of freedom of worship."

Rev. Henry cited a litany of differences that separate faiths, from positions on the ordination of women to theological disagreements. Nevertheless, he said, the crowd gathered for the service yesterday transcended its disagreements.

"That is something for which to give thanks," he said.

Rabbi Robert Klensin of Temple Beth Shalom read Psalm 96.

"Sing unto the Lord a new song," he intoned.

The Rev. Elizabeth B. Hewett, of First Presbyterian Church, prayed for those who could not attend the service, shut-ins and the elderly who live alone.


Priests and ministers from St. Mary's Catholic Church, St. Anne's and the Church of the Latter Day Saints of Jesus Christ also participated in the hourlong service.

The offering collection was earmarked to help pay the utilities and provide assistance for homeless families living in the Light House shelter. Annapolis Area Ministries, an ecumenical coalition seven city churches, runs the emergency shelter on West Street.

"In Annapolis, there's a real ecumenical spirit among the ministers," said the Rev. Phillip Bush, pastor of Heritage Baptist Church on Forest Drive. "We all understand that we have problems in common and work together well."

He and his wife, Caroline, came to the service for the third year in a row with their son, Jared, 5. Jared admired the stained-glass windows at St. Anne's and noticed the differences with his father's church.

"They have pretty windows," he said shyly. "And they have the organ in the back."

Susan and Malcolm McKay, who attend St. Mary's on Duke of Gloucester Street, said they enjoyed the service. "It's really neat to see all the different faiths participating," Mrs. McKay said.


St. Anne's was among 30 churches formed 300 years ago with the establishment of Anglicanism, now the Episcopal Church, as the official church of Maryland.

It has stood on Church Circle since it was built originally between 1696 and 1704, though it was rebuilt three times. The steeple houses Annapolis' town clock and dominates the city's low skyline.