In a time when there is often a lack of cooperation between political parties or unity among religious communities, the annual Community Thanksgiving Service sponsored by the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Ministerium offered a experience of harmony and celebration. The annual service was held on Monday, Nov. 19 at Willow Grove Presbyterian Church. More than 150 people attended the service.
"Each year, the Community Thanksgiving Service is a meaningful way to celebrate Thanksgiving and express our gratitude for our community that works together and worships God together," said The Rev. Cynthia Cochran-Carney, Pastor of Willow Grove Presbyterian Church in Scotch Plains and current president of the Ministerium.
This year a combined choir representing more than ten congregations and the community at large sang a combined choir piece "An Anthem of Thanksgiving" (Jay Althouse, arranger). The service ended with a beautiful arrangement of "Dona Nobis Pacem" (Grant Us Peace) in Latin and Hebrew arranged by Cantor Matthew Axelrod from Congregation Beth Israel. Paul DiDario, Director of Music at Willow Grove Presbyterian Church, was the choir director and Debbie Shapiro, accompanist.
The Rev. Carletta Aston of First United Methodist Church preached on the theme "The Journey is Home," highlighting lessons of gratitude she learned from Joshua in the Bible and a boy named Joshua who died from cancer. She encouraged all those present to live a life of radical thanksgiving.
A special offering for Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts was received. The $847 that was raised was sent to the Community Food Bank of New Jersey in Hillside who is providing food for those affected by the storms around the state. Over $7,000 was raised from the annual Church World Service CropWalk held on Oct. 14 and it was dedicated at the service.
A video was made of the service including some of the music and pictures of the speakers. Worship leaders at the service included: Rabbi Joel Abraham,Temple Sholom; Rev. Carletta Aston, First United Methodist Church; Rev. Cynthia Cochran-Carney, Willow Grove Presbyterian Church; Rev. Jeffrey Cochran-Carney, First Presbyterian Church, South Amboy; David Littman, Congregation Beth Israel (congregation president); Mayor Mary DePaola, Scotch Plains; Deacon Robert Gurske, St. Bartholomew's Roman Catholic Church; Rev. Chaz Hutchison, Scotch Plains Baptist Church; Rev. David Jahnke, Fanwood Presbyterian Church; Kathy Mitchell, Borough of Fanwood; Rev. Dr. Kelmo Porter, St. John's Baptist Church; Rev. Jane Rockman, All Saints Episcopal Church; and Rev. Jeffrey Thompson, Emanuel Baptist Church.
The SPF Ministerium is comprised of clergy and leaders of Christian and Jewish congregations in Scotch Plains-Fanwood, as well as leaders of organizations, such as the Jewish Community Center and YMCA, SPF School District, and the elected officials and staff of Fanwood and Scotch Plains municipal governments. The interfaith Thanksgiving service, which is open to the community, has been a longstanding tradition for more than 30 years. The various houses of worship take turns hosting the service, which features special music, readings, liturgy, and prayer.
Each year the Ministerium sponsors three main events - Community Interfaith Thanksgiving Service (Nov. 19, 2012), Dr. Martin Luther King Day of Service (Jan. 21, 2013), National Day of Prayers (May 3, 2012)