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SCRANTON, Pa. (ChurchMilitant.com) - The mother church of the diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania hosted a Thanksgiving interfaith service in lieu of its regular noon Mass.
The service, which took place in the sanctuary of St. Peter's Cathedral in Scranton, featured representatives of several local churches and synagogues and was broadcast by Catholic Television (CTV), a local TV station. CTV regularly airs the daily Mass at the cathedral; on Monday, however, the noon Mass was canceled and replaced with the 30-minute service.
The service began with the sounding of the Shofar, an instrument generally made of a ram's horn and used for Jewish religious purposes; this was done by Rabbi Marjorie Berman of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote and her husband Rabbi Daniel Swartz, head of the Temple Hesed in Scranton. Rabbi Swartz has controversially stated his ardent support for same-sex "marriage."
Afterward, a center-aisle procession of the various representatives, including St. Peter's pastor, Msgr. Dale Rupert, ended at the altar, where each of them took a seat.
The first speaker, Rev. Calvin Rich of the United Methodist Church, read from the program, asking the audience to "give thanks in [their] hearts as [they] gather to pray" and "share in the summons to worship." He then proceeded to lead the congregation in reciting an English version of the Adhan, the Islamic call to worship:
God is great. I bear witness that there is no God except the one God. I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of God. Hurry to the prayer. Hurry to success, God is great. There is no God except the one God.
The original Muslim reads:
Allāhu akbar. Ash-hadu an-lā ilāha illā allāh. Ash-hadu anna Muhammadan-Rasul ullāh. Hayya'alas-ṣalāh.
Hayya ʿalal-falāḥ. As-salatu Khayrun Minan-nawm. Allāhu akbar. Lā ilāha illā-Allāh.
Following the invocation of Allah, Sr. Ann Walsh, I.H.M., executive director of the Friends of the Poor in Scranton, began the "invitation to prayer," which included repetition of the first line of Psalm 133: "How good and pleasant a thing it is when God's people live together in unity."
The choir then chanted the Gospel acclamation, with community activist Charlotte Ledbetter approaching the pulpit, behind which the tabernacle can clearly be seen. Ledbetter said, "Matthew's 12:18–21" before proceeding to read the Gospel.
Following the illicit reading, Rabbi Moshe Saks of Scranton's Temple Israel, who had earlier read a passage from Leviticus in both Hebrew and English, spoke on justice and the need to respect others, saying that Thanksgiving is "the one holiday that all of us no matter what our religion can share equally. We worship God together."
He then said, "What we need in the world, by all religious leaders, is the notion of religious pluralism — that we should not be saying that my way is the only way, that only I have the direct path to God," cautioning the audience to ignore the "fundamentalists among us."
Toward the end of his talk, when discussing the Syrian refugee crisis, the rabbi claimed he was "ashamed at the House of Representatives who passed that bill last week," referring to the legislation approved last Thursday that would suspend the program allowing Syrian and Iraqi refugees into the United States until more stringent security measures were put in place.
"By posturing about fear," he continued, "by posturing about how they want security, they ignore the very foundations upon which this country was built."
This "flies in the very face of this notion of justice," he continued, urging the audience to "not give in to fear or paranoia."
During the offering collection the choir, Our Lady of Peace School Choir, sang "For the Beauty of the Earth," an 1864 hymn written by devout Tractarian Folliott Sandford Pierpoint.
The intercessions were led by Linda Robeson of the Family to Family Program and Chaplain Kathleen Kaskel of the Geisinger Community Medical Center in Scranton. Some of the intercessions included giving thanks "[f]or the expanding grandeur of creation, worlds known and unknown, galaxies beyond galaxies, filling us with awe, and challenging our imaginations" and "[f]or this fragile planet earth, its time and tides, its sunsets and season," as well as the "human community, our common past and future hope, our oneness transcending all separation, our capacity to work for peace and justice in the midst of hostility and oppression."
The service was concluded with a prayer led by Rev. Howard Woodruff of Elm Park United Methodist Church in Scranton.
The audience for the service was sparse, with one Catholic priest noticeably present in the pews, along with several pastors from unidentifiable Christian denominations.
The entire service can be downloaded from the website for the diocese of Scranton by clicking on the link "Monday Mass."
Contact information for the Scranton diocese:
Bishop Joseph Bambera
Phone: (570) 207-2216