An interfaith service held Thanksgiving Eve in a downtown Salt Lake church was the first ecumenical service of its kind in recent memory, say the people who organized it.
And they want to do it again next year.Local religious community leaders, along with the Utah chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, decided only last Friday to arrange the service, held Wednesday night at the First United Methodist Church.
The National Conference staffers contacted the Rev. Robert R. Sewell, who only recently came to the First United Methodist congregation, about the service, and he told them that he had already planned a Thanksgiving Eve service. It seemed logical to expand it, everyone decided.
Quickly, they made arrangements for Elder John Carmack of the First Quorum of Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Rabbi Fred Wenger of Congregation Kol Ami, and the Rev. Thomas J. Meersman, director of special affairs for the Cathedral of the Madeleine, to share the services. Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis gave the Thanksgiving message and stood in for Meersman, who was unable to attend.
Also joining in the service, whose offerings will be given to the Salt Lake City Shelter School on South Rio Grande Avenue, were Sarah Wick of a Methodist youth group and Victoria Morris, a soloist with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, who sang "America the Beautiful."
About 150 people attended the service, which Sewell said was planned to emphasize the similarities of the different religions on a national holiday celebrated by people of all faiths.
"Thanksgiving becomes the logical time to do this," said Sewell. "It is an appropriate time for the different faiths to come together."
Deanna Clark of the National Conference of Christians and Jews said Wednesday night's service was the first her organization has co-sponsored since it was established in Salt Lake in 1966.
At the end of the service, the participants were already talking about next year's, she said, and added that Wenger had said he would like to have the service in the Jewish synagogue.
The National Conference of Christians and Jews is an organization of people from different religious, racial and ethnic backgrounds whose goal is to live together without bigotry or discrimination and without compromising their distinctive faiths.
The Utah chapter was founded in 1966 by leaders from the LDS, Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and Greek Orthodox faiths.