WILKES-BARRE — Leaning back in a pew at Unity of NEPA Church, Mary Pat Brunner caught Melba Delvillar’s eye.
“We’ll hold hands up there,” Brunner whispered, indicating the podium where the two women, both from St. Nicholas Roman Catholic Parish in Wilkes-Barre, would stand to lead a bilingual song in Spanish and English.
Delvillar nodded – “I’m OK with it,” she said – and the two women smiled, grateful that they each would be able to help the other, and the congregation, through less familiar parts of the song during the 2016 Wilkes-Barre Downtown Ministerium Thanksgiving Service.
Standing and singing together, figuratively or literally holding hands, and expressing gratitude all were part of the service that attracted about 60 people on Tuesday evening to the Unity Church on South Grant Street.
Give thanks to God for all of creation and strive to protect it, Monsignor Vincent Grimalia, from St. Luke’s Villa, told the group. “Too often we forget the beauty of creation is limited.”
Thank God for abundant grace “wide enough to hold us all,” said the Rev. Peter Kuritz, from Good Shepherd Lutheran Church.
We should thank God even for things that seem mundane, said Rabbi Larry Kaplan, of Temple Israel, explaining that Jewish tradition calls for expressing gratitude for 100 things every day.
“There’s even a prayer for going to the restroom,” Kaplan said, pointing out that without that opportunity, a person would be very uncomfortable.
“What do you think there couldn’t possibly be a blessing for?” he asked.
“A mosquito,” someone called out.
“It’s a tough one,” Kaplan admitted. “But even things that do us harm, if they are part of God’s creation, God knows what the purpose is.”
The Rev. Bill Marshall, of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Pro-Cathedral, spoke about being thankful for God’s call. The Rev. Joseph Verespy, from St. Nicholas, talked about thanking God for questions, and Deacon Bill Behm, also from St. Nicholas, talked about thanking God for diversity.
Pointing to the Gospel parable about the Good Samaritan, Behm suggested that Jesus deliberately chose to make the hero of the story a person his listeners would have considered an outsider.
“I ask that you substitute the word ‘Samaritan’ in your mind” with the name of another group you might tend to distrust, he said. Think of “the good black, the good white, the good Hispanic, the good Muslim, the good gay.”
Pastor Steve Perillo, of Make A Difference Ministries, and his Praise Band provided most of the music for the service, including a final song, “Go Make A Difference.”
As the last strains of music faded, Unity church president Cheri-Kim Race, of Warrior Run, welcomed visitors into a reception.
“This was absolutely beautiful,” Race said of the service. “I was so moved. Especially in the wake of the presidential election, where the sides were so split, to see everyone come together and give thanks, it was just wonderful.”
Interfaith Thanksgiving services have a long tradition in the Wyoming Valley, Wilkes-Barre City Council member Tony Brooks said after the service, citing one that took place in November 1808.
Considerably longer than the modern version, Brooks said, that one lasted four hours.
Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT.comments powered by Disqus