The tradition brings six houses of worship together for a night of reflection and celebration.
Dozens of members of Longboat Key’s communities of faith flocked to Longboat Island Chapel for the annual interfaith Thanksgiving service on Nov. 23.
Attendees wore masks as they made their way to their seats, stopping briefly to chat. All six local houses of worship were represented: All Angels by the Sea Episcopal Church, Christ Church of Longboat Key, Longboat Island Chapel, St. Armands Key Lutheran Church, St. Mary, Star of the Sea Catholic Church and Temple Beth Israel.
As usual, the service began with a prelude from Ann Stephenson-Moe on the organ and the processional hymn. As the leader of the church, the Rev. Brock Patterson welcomed everyone to Longboat Island Chapel before Rabbi Stephen Sniderman read the presidential proclamation deeming Thanksgiving a holiday, the Rev. Norman Pritchard led the gathered attendees in a prayer of confession and the Rev. David Marshall led them in a litany of Thanksgiving.
It’s tradition that the newest clergy member on the island gives the message at the interfaith service. Technically, that’s Patterson, not the Rev. Robert Dziedziak, but because 2020 was a strange year, Dziedziak hadn’t given his message yet. When Dziedziak, who leads the congregation at St. Mary’s, came up to give the message for the evening, he began with a joke: A man who was hard of hearing was speeding with his wife in the car when he got pulled over. The officer, with her questions retranslated into shouting by the man’s wife, read his license and noticed that he was from Arkansas. She commented that she had once dated the worst, most horrible, ugly man from there. When the man asked his wife what she said, she yelled, “She said she knows you!” After a rumble of laughter from the crowd, Dziedziak began.
“We're all from different churches, which is really beautiful,” Dziedziak said. “But I thought of this celebration and for me, it comes to my mind as an image of a beautiful stained glass window. We are all different flavors, different colors, but we are all children of the same almighty loving God. This stained glass window is made of all of us here.”
Dziedziak’s message focused on keeping an eye out for blessings in disguise. He spoke about the importance of putting blessings in perspective and being grateful and thankful for what we have. He spoke of a family in Ireland who was set to sail the United States, but one son was bitten by a dog just before the journey. They didn’t go — and the vessel they would’ve been on sank. Many blessings in disguise aren’t so stark, but Dziedziak reminded everyone to look for them just the same.
“Sometimes we have to have a wound to start healing … Maybe being together in kindness is a blessing,” Dziedziak said.
The evening’s offerings were donated to Resurrection House, a faith-based organization that works with the unhoused population in Sarasota County and offers resources to help people get on track. After the service, attendees filed out quickly, as there was no fellowship hour due to the pandemic.
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