Thanksgiving service celebrates variety of faiths, welcomes all

Sunday, November 24, 2013 | 7:47 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA —Nick Okamoto can't be with family on Thanksgiving this year.

But on Sunday evening, the Hawaii native felt welcomed into a different type of family at the Interfaith Thanksgiving Celebration at the Missouri United Methodist Church. 

"I am glad I could share the things I'm thankful for with the people in this room," Okamoto said.

The annual event included a short celebration service and a meal, and community members of all faith backgrounds were encouraged to attend.

The service has been taking place the Sunday before Thanksgiving for about 10 years, according to Noor Azizan-Gardner, the assistant deputy chancellor for diversity at MU.

Adherents of Islam, Baha'i, Christianity and other faith backgrounds were in attendance to enjoy the service and the share of worldly refreshments in honor of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.

"It's about sharing beliefs rather than cutting other beliefs down. It's about the embracing of gratitude, no matter what faith or background," Okamoto said.

The service consisted of singing hymns. Children from different religious backgrounds read verses of thanksgiving.

Afterwards, a communal Thanksgiving gathering of food was spread out on a long, wooden table. Items ranged from chocolate chip cookies to egg rolls, and everyone shared the food they brought.

"We encourage people to bring food that properly suits the traditions they practice and share with everyone," said Janet Schisser, president of the Interfaith Council, which helped sponsor the event.

"It's just such a great thing for all of us to be together to celebrate."

Supervising editor is Edward Hart.

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