Sacred Heart Catholic, Atonement Lutheran, and St. Mark’s United Methodist Celebrate Joint Thanksgiving Service
By Carol Arnett
For 30 years, Sacred Heart Catholic Church and Atonement Lutheran have celebrated Thanksgiving with an ecumenical service the night before, on Wednesday. Three years ago, St Mark’s United Methodist Church began participating.
The service rotates from church to church. This year, for the first time, St. Mark’s will be hosting. The sermon will be preached by a minister from Atonement. Choirs from all three churches will sing.
John Gregory, pastor of St. Mark’s, said he was looking forward to the service and the reception.
“This is a way we can show our deeper unity in Christ beyond our other differences, Gregory said. “Thanksgiving is a holiday with spiritual and secular roots. Giving thanks is a key point in the Bible,” he said.
As the host church, St. Mark’s will provide a reception after the service. They will serve cookies and punch in the church’s fellowship hall.
“The reception is always a nice part of the evening,” he said. “The majority of people there stick around for the fellowship. It’s another great opportunity to sit down and share with others.”
Pastor Richard Mueller from Atonement said he has participated in the service for several years. He said the service began when there was a lot of interest in churches working together. “This was about the same time The Emergency Ministry (TEAM) was founded,” Mueller said. He said Sacred Heart and Atonement worked closely with TEAM. “It was headquartered at Atonement, and much of the storage was at Sacred Heart.”
Mueller said that times have changed since the first service. At that time, he said, ecumenism was very popular. “Now, ecumenism has become somewhat passé, but people are still excited about this service, and we always have a wonderful turnout.”
Mueller said that he himself is always excited about the service. “I’m old enough to remember when Christians didn’t cross borders,” he said. “I grew up never setting foot in other churches. This just shows how far we’ve come.”
Fr. Edward Stanger, from Sacred Heart, said that he has participated in the service for almost 20 years. “It’s a great opportunity to gather with friends and neighbors of different faith traditions to give thanks,” he said.
Stanger said the service was a “time honored tradition in Florissant.” He noted that the collection taken at the service benefits TEAM. “They offer invaluable help and service to the whole community,” he said.
Stanger said the service is always meaningful for him. “I think it’s great to gather together collectively in prayer and song,” he said.
A newer tradition is taking place on Thanksgiving. For twelve years, an ecumenical dinner has been held by local churches. For the fifth year, St. Ferdinand will host the dinner. Six churches are involved this year: Halls Ferry Christian Church, Luther Church of the good Shepard, St. Angela Merici Catholic Church, St. Ferdinand Catholic Church, St. Martin De Porres Catholic Church and St. Sabina Catholic Church.
In addition to providing volunteers, the churches provide items to make toiletry bags that are given to attendees of the dinner. Each church also provides some of the food served.
The dinner will be served from 11:30 to 3 on Thanksgiving Day at St. Ferdinand, 1765 Charbonier Road, and everyone is welcome.
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