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Annual Thanksgiving Prayer Service Emphasizes Interfaith Connections

The Annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Prayer Service offered reflections of different ritual practices for different faiths, while emphasizing shared connections.

Maleah Downton, Editorial Editor

Erika Sesler

Fuzzy blankets veiled the gym floor at Interfaith Club’s annual Thanksgiving Prayer Service Nov. 15. The service consisted of peer reflections focusing on the theme of rituals and practices as it offered an opportunity for students to connect with other faiths.

“This service serves as a chance for students to connect to their peers’ stories,” Interfaith Club Sponsor Stephanie Pino-Dressman said. “At a time of so much violence and misunderstanding in society, the prayer service helps to pull Sion together more as a community.”

The prayer service consisted of four different peer reflections, each representing a different religion: Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The presenters took the time to reflect upon their own religious practices and how these rituals continue to impact their connection and devotion to their faith.

“My main goal is to have everyone feel included,” Interfaith Club Co-President senior MK Shevlin said. “Sometimes our Masses exclude those who are not Catholic. With this, we can include everyone in one service.”

Starting off the prayer service, sophomore Rajitha Velakaturi presented on her experiences with Hinduism. Velakaturi discussed the Hindu ritual of Puja. In the Hindu faith, Puja is a prayer ritual of devotional worship to one or more deities, according to ThoughtCo.

“It’s where you worship with offerings and Montrose, you’re worshiping a certain God that represents something to you,” Velakaturi said. “Through this, you can feel more greatly connected to God.”

Velakaturi’s speech can be found here 

Following Velakaturi’s presentation, students reflected with a moment of silence. Then, senior Katie Krause presented on her personal experiences with Judaism in the context of modern-day issues. Following the tragic Pittsburgh Synagogue shooting and the many recent hate crimes, Krause took the time to reflect upon the effect it holds on the Jewish community.

“I wanted to share my story because I thought It was important for people to hear the real truth,” Senior Katie Krause said. “This service is a good time to put it out there and talk about what is going on in the world.”

Krause’s speech can be found here

Speaking third, senior Anissa McGinnie reflected on her long devotion to Baptism. McGinnie emphasized the strong emotional ties she holds to gospel music. This was McGinnie’s first time presenting at the annual Thanksgiving Prayer Service. She said she was inspired to participate by her hope for greater representation.

“In the past it has always been the same type of speakers for Christianity,” McGinnie said. “Being Baptist, I felt that there needed to be representation for other Christian faiths.”

McGinnie’s speech can be found here 

As a final presenter, Interfaith Club Officer senior Safa Khan spoke on her connection with art and Islam. Khan emphasized how this form of expression provided an outlet for her to connect with her faith.

“Art helps me clear my mind,” Khan said. “It helps me deal.”

Khan’s speech can be found here

Students were permitted to dress in civvies for $3-5 for the prayer service. Donations totaled to $893.50 which will go towards the Jewish Vocational Services. JVS was established in 1949 to assist Holocaust survivors and refugees. This organization has worked in Kansas City, resettling refugees since 2004, according to the JVS mission statement.

“We volunteered with JVS at a warehouse collecting furniture and clothes for refugees,” Interfaith Club Co-President senior Elizabeth Puthumana said. “We really liked the organization and had a good experience with them.”

Throughout the event, interspersed between presentations and reflections was the addition of music. The choir performed various songs that tied in the idea of Thanksgiving. The choir sang “Sing Out Earth And Skies,” and “I Thank You, God.”

Concluding the event, students made bracelets with five beads to represent the four faith traditions presented and the prayer of music. This connected to the shared use of prayer beads throughout the variety of religions.

“It brings in that symbolism of a shared commonality no matter what your faith is or if you don’t have a faith at all,” Puthumana said. “Plus, everyone likes a nice bracelet.”



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