Seven religious leaders and more than a dozen members of various faiths came together to find commonality at the Valley Stream Religious Council’s Interfaith Thanksgiving service on Nov. 21.
The evening started with Rev. Gertude Nation from Grace United Methodist Church giving the opening prayer, after which nearly two dozen Valley Streamers and religious leaders lifted their bowed heads, and together said, “Amen.”
Leaders from the Methodist church, the Islamic Center of South Shore, Baha’i Center of Nassau County, Holy Name of Mary Church, Temple Hillel, Valley Stream Jewish Center and Unity Church of Christianity then sang hymns and offered their gratitude.
“The purpose of the interfaith service is to give the community a way of coming together from various faith backgrounds to give thanks and celebrate the diversity of different religious groups in harmony and service,” said Marie McNair, who has been involved in the religious council for eight years. “This helps us to see how we might have different ways of expressing faith.”
Many of the religious leaders who attended the service also said they found that gathering to pray and sing with members of other religions strengthened their belief that all religions worship the same God in different ways.
“It’s important for different religious groups to come together to worship, despite their differences,” Nation said. “I believe we all worship the same God, known by different names, and coming together to worship helps us to recognize that we are not as different as we believe.”
Due to these similarities, Gohar Ayub, the imam of the Islamic Center, said the council has never hesitated to include the Islamic community in its programs. Additionally, he said, the event reaffirmed his belief that there is one God who answers to everyone regardless of his or her faith.
As the service came to an end, Mayor Ed Fare reflected on the purpose of the interfaith service, which he said is “to establish a moral common ground focusing on the similarities between the faiths.”
“Today we join together for this Thanksgiving interfaith service, recognizing the simple concept of unity and cooperation,” he said. “Every faith is unique in its own way, yet each is built around similar principles that guide us towards a happy, peaceful and fulfilling life.”