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Faiths Unite for Thanksgiving Service

Jacqueline Dayton, Grace Kane and Norma Wagner don't usually sing hymns together. And you don't usually find a rabbi or an imam preaching at a Christian church. But that's what happened Monday at East Avenue United Methodist Church in the annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Service.

"There is something truly sacred and special about this gathering because even more than usual, we are gathered as God's people," the Rev. Paul Bryant-Smith of the First Congregational Church said in his sermon. A diverse group of religious representatives — including Imam Azzeim Mahmoud of the Al-Madany Islamic Center , the Rev. Oscar Destruge of Iglesia Metodista Unida El Camino, Rabbi Ron Fish of Temple Beth El , the Rev. Keith Walsh of Norwalk Church of the Nazarene and the Rev. Lois Keen of Grace Episcopal Church — sat behind him.

Mahmoud read from the Koran in Arabic; Fawzia Belal read the same passages in English. Destruge read 2 Corinthians 9:6-15 in Spanish; Keen read the passage in English. All of the passages revolved on the theme of abundance and sustenance.

"Tonight we share in the gifts that God has given us," Bryant-Smith said. "We thank God for the gifts of the harvest and the bounty that surrounds us daily. So we commit ourselves to sharing that bounty with others less fortunate than we are."

Bryant-Smith did a role call, and found many Roman Catholics, a group of Muslims and a few Jews among the crowd of about 100.

Dayton, Kane and Wagner were in the choir. Wagner and Dayton are both Methodists but go to different churches; Kane is a member of the First Congregational Church. Wagner said the service's tradition goes back for "years."

"Talk about pulling everybody together," she said. "I thought it was lovely."

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