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Praise: Honoring God for his word in Salt Lake City — National Bible City 2013

Published: Saturday, Nov. 23 2013 5:00 a.m. MST

Roma Downey and her husband, producer Mark Burnett, will be featured during Saturday evening's concert at the Salt Lake Tabernacle celebrating Salt Lake City's selection as National Bible City 2013.

Provided by Roma Downey

SALT LAKE CITY — You can call it serendipity, coincidence, kismet or fate. Roma Downey has another explanation for it.

“It’s a God thing,” she says, simply, confidently.

The popular actress (“Touched by an Angel”) wasn’t planning to be in Salt Lake City to observe the 72nd annual National Bible Week, as well as the city’s designation as National Bible City 2013. Rather, she and her husband — producer Mark Burnett (“Survivor,” “The Apprentice,” “The Voice,” “Shark Tank”) — were planning to be in town for a special advance screening of “Son of God,” a theatrical film based on what she calls “the Jesus narrative” from the wildly successful “The Bible” miniseries that the couple produced for the History Channel.

But when National Bible Association president Richard Glickstein invited them to host the organization’s Concert of Praise, scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 23, at 7 p.m. in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square — the exact same day the private screening was scheduled for earlier in the day — putting “The Bible” creators together with the national Bible observance was a no-brainer.

“On the set of ‘Touched by an Angel,’ we used to say that coincidences are God’s way of remaining anonymous,” Downey said in a telephone interview earlier this week. “At first blush, it looks like things just worked out. But when you step back and see how it was all laid out, you can see that it was providential.”

So Downey and Burnett will host the Concert of Praise Saturday night in the Tabernacle, hosting an interfaith gathering aimed at celebrating the Bible and its teachings. The concert will feature an inner-city children’s choir from Baltimore, a Jewish cantor singing ancient melodies that were sung in synagogues at the time of Jesus Christ, the Brigham Young University Singers, the Salt Lake City Mass Choir (a group of evangelical Christian singers) and dramatic readings from the Bible by Downey and Burnett.

“My husband is a little nervous about the fact that I’m going to have him up there performing,” Downey said, chuckling. “But he’ll be great. And it will be a beautiful pleasure for Mark and I to share some of our favorite passages of scripture.”

The Concert of Praise, which is free to the public, is one of two major events scheduled in honor of Salt Lake City’s designation as the National Bible Association’s National Bible City for 2013. The other will be Monday, Nov. 25, at noon in the Utah State Capitol Rotunda.

“It’s going to be a public Bible reading, but we’re calling it a ‘free speech gathering,’” Glickstein said during a recent visit to Salt Lake City. Gov. Gary R. Herbert will be the first reader, and he will be followed by a number of political, business and religious leaders, both local and national, including Utah Jazz president Randy Rigby, Elder S. Gifford Nielsen of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Quorum of the Seventy, Pampered Chef founder Doris Christopher and National Bible Bee competitor Tia Thomas.

“None of our readers are going to offer any commentary or explanation, and there won’t be any preaching,” Glickstein promised. “We’ve just asked them to bring their favorite scriptures to read and share as a way of honoring God.”

Glickstien has drawn from his Jewish roots in creating ways to celebrate the Bible.

“The Jewish people have always had the Torah at the center of their culture,” said Glickstein, who became a Christian after a miraculous healing experience in the 1960s. “God told them that his word is the most precious thing that he gives to them, and they take that very seriously.”

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