CEDAR RAPIDS — Representatives of the Inter-Religious Council of Linn County are hoping their annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Service furthers their mission to foster a welcoming community.
The service takes place at 7 p.m. Monday at Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church, 6621 C Ave. NE, Cedar Rapids.
Nine representatives from area religious and secular organizations plan to speak, including those from Unitarian Universalist, Native American, Muslim, Jewish, Humanist, Hindu, Christian Buddhist and Baha’i communities. Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker will give a keynote speech on how residents can make their community welcoming for everyone.
The many speakers are what attracts between 100 and 200 to the service each year, said Charles Crawley, president of the Inter-Religious Council of Linn County.
“People like to hear that we have a variety of faith communities,” Crawley said. “I think people like the opportunity to hear them because normally you’re just hearing one.”
And most importantly, Crawley said having a service close to the holidays where members of various faith or secular communities can come together goes a long way to making residents feel welcomed throughout the rest of the year.
“It shows that the great religious traditions and the secular have this in common: we try to be hospitable to the stranger that comes to our community and make them feel welcome and do things to help them,” Crawley said. “And we define welcome as looking out for vulnerable people in our community, as well.”
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To help those in the community who may be vulnerable, the Inter-Religious Council of Linn County holds an offering for the Linn Community Food Bank during the Thanksgiving service. Crawley said Carrie Bryner, president of the food bank, will speak briefly at the event.
“She’s always good at showing gratitude toward the community and how much people really need food assistance,” Crawley said. “It’s not just a nice-to-do, it’s a necessity for people.”
Additionally, the chimers from Andrews Christian Academy will perform, a first for the Interfaith Thanksgiving Service during which the Mount Mercy Bell Choir has previously performed. The performance matches the theme of this year’s service, said Carolyn Sternowski, music teacher at Andrews Christian Academy.
Sternowski teaches the seven middle school chimers, six of whom are from refugee families who now live in Linn County, she said.
“These children are from families that have had real tribulations in their lives,” Sternowski said. “They are just trying to adapt to a culture that is so different. It’s miraculous to watch how the children can go back and forth from their home culture to school. (The students’ performance) works out so perfectly with the theme of the service that we are a diverse community with everyone being welcomed.”
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If you go
What: Inter-Religious Council of Linn County Thanksgiving service
When: 7 p.m. Monday
Where: Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church, 6621 C Ave. NE, Cedar Rapids
Details: There will be an offering held for the Linn Community Food Bank. Refreshments will be served after the service.