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Native American celebration will open service

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    Mecklenburg Ministries’ 38th annual Interfaith Thanksgiving service will begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Covenant Presbyterian Church, 1000 E. Morehead St., Charlotte. A musical prelude will start at 6:30 p.m. The event is free. Those who attend are encouraged to bring canned goods and financial donations for Loaves & Fishes, Crisis Assistance Ministries and Mecklenburg Ministries.



More than 1,000 people of many faiths are expected to gather Tuesday night in Covenant Presbyterian Church for Mecklenburg Ministries’ 38th annual citywide Interfaith Thanksgiving Service.

In a nod to that First Thanksgiving in 1621, when Pilgrims are said to have feasted with Native Americans, Tuesday’s interfaith event will open with a celebration of Native American culture and faith. Those who attend will witness the world premiere of a new song – “We All Sing” – from composer William Neil. It will be performed through voice, instruments and drums.

As part of another tradition, representatives at the pulpit will read sacred texts from the Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh traditions.

And Ronald Carter, president of Johnson C. Smith University, will give the evening’s central message. His subject: “The Courage to be Thankful in Tough Times.”

Interfaith Adult and Children’s Choirs, with a total of 200 voices, will perform.

A musical prelude will start at 6:30 p.m. The actual service begins at 7 p.m.

The service was moved to Covenant Presbyterian, 1000 E. Morehead St., after St. Matthew Catholic Church in Ballantyne bowed out rather than formally invite Steav Bates-Congdon, music director at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Fort Mill, to be a member of the team planning and performing music for the service.

Last year, Bates-Congdon was fired by another Catholic church, St. Gabriel, after he traveled to New York to marry his longtime male partner and then put the wedding photos on Facebook.

Monsignor John McSweeney, pastor at St. Matthew, said he declined Mecklenburg Ministries’ request that he formally invite Bates-Congdon to help plan the service, as Bates-Congdon has done for several years, because “in no way would we give the impression that the Catholic Church approves of same-sex marital covenants.”

That view clashed with the mission statement of Mecklenburg Ministries, which has nearly 100 member congregations of various faiths.

“At the heart of our core values is honoring the dignity of all people and not excluding anyone,” said the Rev. Christy Snow, who chairs the Mecklenburg Ministries committee planning the interfaith service.

Bates-Congdon will direct at least one of the service’s musical presentations, organizers have said.

In sponsoring the annual interfaith Thanksgiving service, Mecklenburg Ministries has said it hopes to build interfaith relationships, foster racial and ethnic understanding, and promote working together on social justice issues.

Those planning to attend Tuesday night’s service are encouraged to bring canned goods and financial donations for Loaves & Fishes, Crisis Assistance Ministry and Mecklenburg Ministries.

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