Hundreds of guests, greeted warmly by smiling ushers, poured into the gilded sanctuary of the on Sunset Blvd. in the Palisades Monday evening for A Community Service of Thanksgiving hosted by the Pacific Palisades Ministerial Association.
Msgr. Liam Kidney, pastor of for the past 11 years, said the Association has been around “since before I got here.” Pastors of seven denominations get together on a “per need” basis, said the pastor, in addition to several formal meetings every year when they plan interfaith events like this service.
“The hope is we bring something positive to the community,” Msgr. Kidney asserted. He added that the association has been talking about putting together an interfaith crew for a Habitat for Humanity project.
The Rev. Walter Mees of pointed out that the group has always coordinated a 5K hunger walk in the Palisades. Some of the clergy have been participating in a three-part series, A Priest, a Rabbi and a Minister walk into a bar... which meets next at Corpus Christi on Dec. 6.
Offerings collected at Monday’s service will be donated to Santa Monica’s Ocean Park Community Center (OPCC). The agency provides “a network of housing and services for low-income and homeless youth, adults and families, battered women and their children, and people living with mental illness.”
Photos in the gallery show highlights of the interfaith service of thanksgiving from beginning to end. All of the clergy shared insights and biblical teaching on the theme of gratitude and redemption. Musical interludes were provided by a chorus comprised of members of all the participating faith communities. Their soaring vocals crescendoed with the rendition of May the Lord Bless You and Keep You, which closed the service.
Following a prelude and hymn, Brother Satyananda of the Lake Shrine introduced rabbis Steven Carr-Reuben and Amy Bernstein. Rabbi Carr-Reuben read from Isaiah chapter 58 while Rabbi Bernstein intoned the verses in ancient Hebrew quietly behind him.
“If you banish the yoke from the midst, the menacing hand and the evil speech, and you offer your compassion to the hungry, and satisfy the famished creature, then shall your light shine in darkness and your gloom shall be like noonday.”
The Rev. Daniel Hagmaier, , delivered a reading from Philippians 4, exhorting penitents to give thanks.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious—if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise—think on these things.”
The Rev. Dr. John Nagle, literally took center stage to deliver the evening’s sermon. An elegant figure with a mane of white hair and wearing a crisp black suit, Nagle prompted listeners to remember the Pilgrims who “paused for a harvest meal” after their first arduous year in the new world.
“Not only to give thanks for the food that they were about to receive, not only to give thanks for all the blessings that God had given to them but for the hope that God had given them for their future and for the faith that God had instilled within each one of them.”
The reverend went on to illustrate with stories about everyday experiences and interactions the human tendency to elevate complaints above gratitude. He emphasized the “privileges” of life that are derived from relationships, work and community.
“As we come around the table this Thursday, may each of us look across that table and give thanks to God for the family, give thanks to God for our marriages, give thanks to God for this great country in which we live, give thanks to God for the faith that he has instilled within each one of us.”
Brother Satyananda led the assembly in a hymn/chant When Thy Song Flows Through Me written by the founder of Self-Realization Fellowship, Paramahansa Yogananda. Wrapped in a marigold colored robe, he sat to pump a harmonium in accompaniment with the song.
“Oh life is sweet and death a dream when Thy song flows through me…”
Satyananda followed by guiding a meditation to raise “an emotion of gratitude” for God’s love and care.
The Rev. Howard R. Anderson, , read President Obama’s Thanksgiving proclamation. The Rev. Betsy Anderson (“no relation”) also represented Saint Matthew’s at the service.
“One of our nation's oldest and most cherished traditions, Thanksgiving Day brings us closer to our loved ones and invites us to reflect on the blessings that enrich our lives. The observance recalls the celebration of an autumn harvest centuries ago, when the Wampanoag tribe joined the Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony to share in the fruits of a bountiful season.”
The Wampanoag themselves will observe Nov. 24 as a National Day of Mourning.
All the clergy present took to the stage to participate with the congregation in a responsive reading of A Prayer for Unity by Jack Reimer. Rev. Mees, dressed in cassock and shawl, though lacking a solo assignment joined the others for the group recitation. The prayer acknowledges people’s capacity to put an end to war, prejudice, starvation, despair and disease, if only they were sufficiently determined.
“Therefore we pray instead
For strength, determination and will-power,
To do instead of merely to pray,
To become instead of merely to wish,
That our world may be safe,
And that our lives may be blessed.”
Finally, Msgr. Kidney closed the service with an invitation to silent expressions of gratitude. Then, with his Cork City Irish brogue lightly sweeting the blessing like a dusting of powdered sugar, he recited the traditional Celtic invocation.
“May the road rise up to meet you and may the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warmly on your face; and if it does rain, may it fall softly.
And until we all meet again, may the Lord hold you in the palm of His hand.”