Annual community Thanksgiving service

People carrying banners form the various participating congregations walk down the aisle during a previous Interfaith Community Thanksgiving Service at the 17th Street Baptist Church in Anniston.

Since 1989, Interfaith Ministries of Calhoun County has hosted a community Thanksgiving service that celebrates the area’s many different faiths.

This year’s service will be Sunday from 4-6 p.m. at Anniston First United Methodist Church.

It is the signature event of Interfaith Ministries — and this year they’re mixing it up a bit, said April LaFollette, executive director.

“This year it’s really about the blessing of the community. We feel so strongly that Interfaith exists because of the community, and for the community,” she said.

“Interfaith was formed over 40 years ago by the community. It’s a local organization that serves local people. That’s really special in this day and age.”

The organization’s guiding principle is “bringing God’s people together to serve God’s people in need.” To that end, Interfaith Ministries operates Meals on Wheels, Christmas Clearing House, “The Open Door” ministry to the homeless and other programs to help individuals and families in crisis.

For the first time, the Thanksgiving community service will incorporate a “sharing of the peace,” in which participants in the pews will shake hands or otherwise greet each other.

“We will greet our neighbors, and reach out to those people around us,” LaFollette said.

For 29 years, the service has brought together people of varying faiths — Christian, Jew and Muslim — with representatives of each branch taking part in the service.

A representative from Anniston’s Temple Beth El will read from the fifth book of the Torah. A representative from a Christian church will read from Corinthians. A representative from the Anniston Islamic Center will read from the Quran.

“It’s an opportunity to share the diversity of our faith,” LaFollette said.

The message will be delivered by Rev. Lee Shafer of Grace Episcopal Church, who will be leaving Anniston for a new position at a church in Kentucky at the end of the month.

“As a past president of Interfaith, Lee has had a hand in guiding our agency,” LaFollette said. “We are happy to have her share her message before she leaves our community.”

Lisa Davis is Features Editor of The Anniston Star. Contact her at 256-235-3555 or