Gratitude for God's blessings and the need for solidarity with people of other beliefs and ethnic groups was the theme of a multifaith Thanksgiving service Sunday night.
Songs and readings in English, Hebrew, Tibetan and Arabic lifted the hearts of hundreds attending the service at the Congregation Kol Ami, 2425 E. Heritage Way (2760 South). The service was sponsored by the National Conference for Community and Justice, Utah Region.
"Who among us does not feel the urging to thank our creator for all his goodness?" asked Elder Scott Parker, director of the Utah Salt Lake City Area Public Affairs Council, of The Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Parker read from a sermon by Benjamin in the Book of Mormon and urged the group to be grateful. He noted, "We've all be warmed by fires we did not build." He listed five gifts from God for which he is especially thankful.
On this evening of gratitude, Parker added, quoting Shakespeare, he remembered what the Lord has done.
Rabbi Tracee Rosen of the Congregation Kol Ami said each should appreciate the "beauty of diversity." Those present had much different points of view, she said, and it's a blessing they could come together and celebrate that diversity.
In other parts of the world, she added, "you and I might be looking at each other from different ends of a rifle barrel." She called for compromise among people.
Lama Thupten of the Urgyen Samten Ling Gonpa Meditation Center, representing Tibetan Buddhists, said on his way to the gathering he heard a young soldier talking about the brutality of the war in Iraq. Leaders may say it is a just cause, he said, but all know better. He called for solidarity.
Forrest Cuch, director of the Utah Division of Indian Affairs, warned of a Mayan prophecy that the world may end in 2012.
"Time is running out," he said. "We won't be able to get away with it much longer." Cuch called for improvements in taking care of the Earth and each other, to make a difference and prevent disaster.
"We owe our existence to the benevolence of our creator," said Imam Shuaib-Ud Dim of the Khadeeja Mosque. Besides showing gratitude to God, he added, "He has instructed us to show gratitude towards each other."
A 17th-century prayer was the text of LeeAnne Williams, religious educator, First Unitarian Church. The austere Pilgrim prayer was, "Spare us, oh God, from a dead heart yet while we live."
The meaning is that each should pray to be spared the failure to love one another fiercely, to be spared a cynical attitude, to be spared having an unfeeling spirit, to be spared an ungrateful heart. Instead, people should live in peace and joy.
Cantor Lawrence Loeb sang in Hebrew Psalm 100, about thanksgiving.
A prayer of gratitude to God and a prayer of gratitude toward others present were offered by Rebecca Hendryx of the Baha'i faith. "Thy bounties are endless and our gratitude cannot equal them," she said in the first prayer. "Thou art the giver, the bestower, the Almighty."
Rev. Langes James Silva, judicial vicar of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, discussed faith in a time of warfare and natural disaster. In philosophy, he said, "There exists no satisfactory answer to what is called the problem of evil."
His feeling is that God has his own purposes and that these terrible events allow people to find good through their kindness. "God is always present," he said. He is in the midst of suffering.
"When people suffer, Christ suffers," Silva added.
At different points of the service, the Salt Lake Men's Choir sang inspirational songs.
In the closing benediction, the Right Rev. Carolyn Tanner Irish, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah, thanked God for Earth's blessings. "We thank you for the abundance of the harvest season" and the joy of sharing the harvest with others, she said.