Participants in a tri-faith Thanksgiving service were greeted not once, but three times, upon entering Church of Our Savior in Martinez on Monday evening.
Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders each welcomed the more than 70 worshippers who attended the annual gathering, held this year at the Episcopal church.
“This is an important service,” said the Rev. John West, the rector of Church of Our Savior. “This is an important service because it brings us together.”
Each leader read from his holy scriptures and thanked God for his goodness in an hour-long service of prayer and song as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches.
It was West’s first interfaith service. The Augusta native moved back to the area last summer after serving a church in Richmond, Va., for several years.
“This is the first time I’ve ever done a service like this and, I have to tell you, it was awesome,” West said. “To come together and share a service, to share a feast as a community, is really something special.”
The location of the service rotates each year between the church, Congregation Children of Israel and the Islamic Society of Augusta.
It was those three congregations that gathered 10 years ago for the first tri-faith service of Thanksgiving, said Valerie Haney, a longtime member of Church of Our Savior.
“It was Thanksgiving 2001, just after Sept. 11,” she said. “There was a need to heal this community.”
Haney has attended every service since.
Though the program changes each year and attendance grows and wanes, the faith leaders said the heart of the service remains unchanged.
“We have God in common,” West said.
The service, as Imam Majed Sabke added, is an opportunity to worship God “shoulder to shoulder” with others in the community.
Rabbi Robert Klensin of Congregation Children of Israel prayed – in Hebrew and English – thanking God for his provision.
“Each day of our lives we have so much to be thankful for,” he said. “Help us to be especially thankful that we live in this country that allows us to practice our own religions.”