A bruising and polarizing election was on the minds of 500 Montgomery County worshippers at an interfaith Thanksgiving service last week as they filled the sanctuary of Congregation Har Shalom in Potomac with the sound of a shofar, chants in Sanskrit accompanied by an Indian harmonium and a drum, and the voices of choirs.
Krista Stammeyer, of St. James Episcopal Church, said the country, more than any other time in history needs “unity and praise and Thanksgiving, and calling upon God to bless this country, bless our leadership and guide us in the future.”
Eight religious communities joined Har Shalom at the annual service on Nov. 22. Each one led in word and song from its own tradition, calling for healing divisions in the country.
Winston Wilkinson attended to see his daughter, Sadie, 11, play violin for a children’s choir. He said it was important to support other faith communities.
“I think we are a community, and once you realize that we do have common beliefs, it helps to knock down some barriers,” said Wilkinson, who attends Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints, Potomac. “But I think given the politics today — which have really disturbed me — I wanted to come and support other people and other religions.”
Har Shalom member Bob Horowitz also attended because of his children. His daughter Abigail recently became
a bat mitzvah and people of several faiths were on the dance floor during the Hora.
“It reminded me how diverse this area is and what a wonderful thing that is,” he said. “Other parts of the country that I’ve lived in, you don’t always get that melting pot effect. But when you do, you find out that our diversity really is our strength.”
Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and Maryland state Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-District 17) commended the community on its efforts for unity. Kagan presented the citations during the service.
“It is important symbolism that we all come together at this time of gratitude, but also a time of fear and division,” Kagan, a Har Shalom member, said after the service.
Participants included St. Raphael Catholic Church; Potomac Presbyterian Church; Saints Peter & Paul
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church; Baha’i Community of Potomac; Beth Sholom Congregation; the Islamic Community Center of Potomac and Krishna Temple, Potomac.
The Har Shalom event was one of several interfaith Thanksgiving services in the Washington area. Congregation Adat Reyim, of Springfield; Bradley Hills Presbyterian Church and Bethesda Jewish Congregation; and B’nai Shalom of Olney all held or participated in interfaith Thanksgiving
Following the service at Har Shalom, participants sorted and packed donations to Manna Food Center, which collects and distributes food to underprivileged.
The service ended with 500 voices joining together in singing “God Bless America.”