Denver Citizens Celebrate Thanksgiving Through Interfaith Service

November 24, 2000

Source: The Denver Rocky Mountain News

On November 24, 2000, The Denver Rocky Mountain News reported that "Denver's Interfaith Thanksgiving service began Thursday with a phrase that's been in cold storage for almost a year: 'Welcome to the last Thanksgiving service of this millennium,' said the Rev. John D. Spangler, as chuckles rose from about 750 people gathered at Congregation Emanuel. Last year's millennial fever notwithstanding (technically, the new millennium begins the first day of 2001), a historic reference fits this annual Thanksgiving event. It began in the 1880s when Congregation Emanuel, the first Jewish congregation in Colorado, joined with Denver's Unitarian Church to celebrate the quintessential American holiday. A variety of other faith traditions now join the 90-minute service and take turns as official sponsor. This year, speakers from at least 10 churches or spiritual traditions shared their Thanksgiving message. A full-throated choir, representing Jewish, Protestant, Catholic and other congregations, laced the speeches with traditional hymns, including Now Thank We All Our God...The Rev. Kanya Okamoto of the Denver Buddhist Temple read passages from The Way of Bodhisattva...Rabbi Audrey Pollack of Congregation Emanuel echoed the call to repair a broken world, which was the theme of this year's service. Just because a person can't make everything in the world perfect, she said, doesn't mean one shouldn't do what one can...But the Rev. James Hobart of the First Unitarian Church offered a sobering view of the holiday. 'Thanksgiving rings shallow,' he said, 'if we cover up the fact of our blighted national story.' Hobart said the traditional basis for the Thanksgiving tradition - that Pilgrims shared a feast of gratitude with Indians who helped them survive the harsh winter - is composed of 'comforting half-truths and lies.' Hobart said that idea should be superseded by the acknowledgment of the 'genocidal slaughter of Native Americans' by European settlers. 'Justice begins when we act informed by the truth,' he said...And at a service first conducted during the administration of Grover Cleveland, the Rev. Donald Gueck of Central Christian Church couldn't resist alluding to the fact that this year, nobody yet knows what presidential administration looms. 'This is a day to feel blessed even if the nation is in a state of confusion,' said Gueck, who added he was thankful there is a process in place to resolve the confusion. The collection taken during the service will go to the Colorado AIDS Project."