Churches come together to give thanks
BY SUSAN DEMAR LAFFERTY firstname.lastname@example.org November 18, 2012 8:58PM
Children line up for a “parade of nations” Sunday at Moraine Valley Church in Palos Heights. | Susan DeMar Lafferty~Sun-times Media
Updated: December 20, 2012 6:15AM
There are at least a dozen churches along a 10-mile stretch of 127th Street from Chicago to Palos Heights, and this weekend they proved that they have a lot more in common than a main street.
Just as families come home for the holidays, members of these churches come together as one large family of God for a celebratory service on the Sunday before Thanksgiving at Moraine Valley Church in Palos Heights. They call it a “Miracle on 127th Street” — a miracle that all these people of varying faiths and ethnicities can lay aside their differences and come together in a spirit of peace, for praise, worship and thanksgiving.
“This is a perfect time to come together,” said the Rev. Dan Willis of Lighthouse Church of All Nations in Alsip, who initiated the service eight years ago. He reached out to other pastors along 127th Street believing that area churches should be make a unified statement and set an example for the community.
“How can we say ‘peace on earth’ if we don’t set the example,” Willis said. “In a world torn by violence, we need to be a statement to the community. We are the peacemakers. From peacemakers comes peace this holiday season.”
“This is a homecoming in a sense,” said the Rev. Freddie Steel, of Life Church in Palos Heights. “We are a single family — the family of God. And the family comes home for the holidays.”
“I love seeing these ecumenical activities. It makes God happy,” he said. “People generally are glad to see people getting along. It’s indicative of how God feels about his people. God so loved the world.”
That was evident in the dances and voices of children of Glorious Life Worship Center in Blue Island as they opened the Thanksgiving service with a powerful dance followed by “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” Youth and adult choirs also joined together in praise and worship throughout the service.
For Barb Clark, of Life Church in Palos Heights, a service like this “enhances Thanksgiving.”
“This is a time to think about others, to think about family, to help each other out and pay it forward,” she said.
Thanksgiving is Susan Tesauro’s favorite holiday, even though our society tends to downplay it, she said.
“I’m excited about the multiple denominations and the multiple cultures. It’s neat to see how God works in various ways,” she said.
“It’s about everyone coming together and having a good time,” Reggie Blissett, of Lighthouse Church said.
Willis said he believed it was his purpose to bring all these people together. His church is smack in the middle of these diverse communities. Eight years ago, he personally visited his fellow pastors along 127th Street and invited them to breakfast, hoping a few would show up.
“It was a miracle that 11 showed up,” Willis said, and the name stuck. “It’s neat to meet people from different churches. It breaks down barriers,” he said.
Steel said there is a “unique camaraderie” among the pastors, who continue to meet during the year. “This is the right way to be with each other, to celebrate each other. It’s a real lift.”
The churches are not here to “swap members” but to “enjoy each other,” Alice McGraw, Moraine Valley Church secretary said.
Those who came enjoyed seeing and hearing the different styles of worship.
Lt. Lorna Nelson, of Salvation Army Cross Generations in Blue Island — whose Hispanic praise team performed a song — said it is important for people to see that religions are not split apart.
“This is a community thing. That’s what we’re about — sharing in the spirit of Thanksgiving,” she said.
“We exist to be a blessing to the community and we need the community to see the truth in that,” Nelson said.