More than 100 people of all faiths and denominations joined together Tuesday evening at New Ark United Church of Christ to worship as one and give thanks for the year’s blessings.
The interfaith Thanksgiving service began in 1989 and rotates between different churches in the area each year.
“This is one of the best things Newark does,” said the Rev. Cynthia Robinson, pastor of Newark UCC.
Faith leaders representing Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Sikhism, Quakerism, the Baha’i faith and other religions addressed the joint congregation, and an interfaith choir performed several songs.
“This is truly a sacred hour,” said Sheikh Abdel Hadi Shehata, of the Islamic Society of Delaware. “How good it is to see all the people from various creeds, races, backgrounds and colors gather together to thank the almighty God for everything he provides for us. To me, this is the true meaning of Thanksgiving.”
Charanjeet Singh Minhas, of the Delaware Sikh Awareness Coalition, said the gathering is a good reminder that despite the anti-immigrant sentiments of some national political leaders, Americans are still a welcoming people.
“Americans continue to love and embrace and, like all of you here today, are joyously celebrating Thanksgiving, a festival that says no one is our enemy and no one is a danger to us. We can get along with everybody, and nobody’s ‘other,’” Minhas said.
The Rev. Greg Pelley, of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Mill Creek, talked about taking his daughter on a trip to upstate New York, where they were able to view the night sky without the interference of light pollution.
“Gobsmacked is one of those words we don’t use very often, or at least I don’t, but it’s the only one that quite fits my daughter's reaction to seeing the heavens that night – utterly astonished, awed, spinning around and around, laughing and saying, ‘Oh, my God,’” Pelley said.
That moment reminded him that it’s easy to get mired in the daily grind of daily life and lose sight of the fact he’s part of a world much larger than himself.
“So my invitation to us tonight is to recommit to our vigil here at the gates of hope to welcome the stranger until they are kin and to hear in each other's stories the possibility of the world we dream of,” Pelley said. “Because somewhere tonight in this world, a father and a daughter are looking up at the stars in wonder and awe, gobsmacked that they find themselves basking in the oneness of love. Therein lies our future.”