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Community Notebook: Multifaith Thanksgiving Service aims to help unify Palo Alto

All faiths welcome at annual celebration

On Sunday, Nov. 20, the First Church of Christ, Scientist will hold a Multifaith Thanksgiving Service, sponsored by faith leaders of Palo Alto.

In the wake of an election cycle that has proven just how divided the country has become, organizers Rabbi Shelly Lewis of Congregation Kol Emeth and Pastor Margaret Boles of Covenant Presbyterian Church are aiming to help bring Palo Alto community closer.

While the annual service always stresses the importance of giving thanks and accepting people of all ages and all faiths, this year's theme is one of healing, Lewis said.

He added that people of all political ideologies are welcome. The service is intended to inspire better understanding and communication.

“We want to reconnect the fabric of the community. … This is not a protest; it’s really a time of coming together,” said Lewis, who has been part of the annual event for more than 30 years.

Boles has participated in past services as well. During the last presidential election, she remembers, the organizers crafted a prayer and sent it to President Barack Obama, eventually receiving a response.

“We are trying to enforce that need for us to be together in this community, which is so diverse; it’s a celebration of our diversity,” she said.

The event will include a call to prayer for all faiths as well as dancing, a choral performance by the Eastside College Preparatory School choir, special Thanksgiving hymns and interactive activities, including one focused on the importance of "generous listening."

Additionally, Reverend Floyd Thompkins, former recipient of the Presidential Award for Community Service from President Bill Clinton, will give the keynote speech. Thompkins is the director of the Center for Innovation in Ministry at the San Francisco Theological Seminary as well as the former dean and chaplain at Stanford and Princeton universities.

“Through readings, interactive exercises and the messages of the speakers, we are trying to foster a sense of healing,” Lewis said, adding, “Our hope is that we will all refine ourselves and listen to each other.”

All offerings received will go to Project WeHOPE East Palo Alto, Haiti Hurricane Relief, American Red Cross and American Jewish World Service.

The service will take place Sunday at 7 p.m. at the First Church of Christ, Scientist, 3045 Cowper Street, Palo Alto.

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