As the last hymn was sung at the annual Interfaith celebration, “Unity in Gratitude,” hosted by the Pacific Palisades Ministerial Association, I marveled at our town’s religious leaders and their understanding of our spiritual needs.
The hymn’s first verse, written by Siegfried August Mahlmann (1771-1826), starts: “God bless our native land; firm may she ever stand through storm and night; when the wild tempests rave, ruler of wind and wave, do though our country save by the great might.”
The second verse continues: “For her our prayers shall rise to God, above the skies; on him we wait; thou who art every night, guarding with watchful eye, to thee aloud we cry, God save the state!”
The cozy, uplifting service, which was held in the St. Matthew’s sanctuary on Monday evening, was hosted by the Community Methodist Church, Corpus Christi Catholic Church, Kehillat Israel, Palisades Lutheran Church, Palisades Presbyterian Church, St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, the Self-Realization Fellowship and the Church of the Latter-Day Saints.
The clergy, who meet about once a month during the year to “talk shop” and discuss spiritual needs, have hosted this particular joint service, usually the Monday before Thanksgiving, for decades.
Dr. Haesung Park began the service by playing the piano prelude of a Spanish Rhapsody of “All Creatures of Our God and King.” She also played the postlude “Not Thank We All Our God,” on the church’s magnificent organ.
As per tradition, all the clergy had a role in the ceremony, either in prayers or a guided meditation, such as the Gratitude Meditation led by Brother Satyandanda of the SRF, who reminded everyone about the need to achieve harmony with nature and our fellow humans. During the past year, he said, “The lesson we’ve learned is we need each other.”
Rev. Bruce Freeman of St. Matthew’s welcomed the audience and said, “I appreciate you so dearly being here.”
Rabbi Amy Bernstein sang “L’dor Vador” (from Generation to Generation) and Rev. Grace Park (Palisades Presbyterian) gave the blessing of Thanksgiving.
When Bishop Chris Eastland introduced Sharon Browning, co-president of the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness, he cited one of Jesus’ miracles – the feeding of the 5,000 with “the five loaves and two fish.”
When the disciples told Jesus they didn’t have enough to feed that many people, he took the bread and fish and gave it to his disciples, who then went and distributed it to the crowd—”and they found there was more than they started with,” Eastland said.
“God gives us something we think is an insurmountable challenge,” said Eastland, who noted that the outreach work by the PPTFH is something that once seemed insurmountable. But now, among organizations, there is one shining star.”
He spoke about how the PPTFH, since its founding, has taken 153 homeless off the streets and 99 have been placed in permanent housing. “It happened because of many individuals working together. It happened because people were working collectively to make this miracle happen.”
A collection was taken, and the proceeds were given to the PPTFH. “It’s wonderful to be with a faith community to share what we are doing,” Browning said, noting that the task force is now also working with 10 other communities who are replicating the PPTFH model by helping homeless people find housing and services in a humane way.
“There are so many causes you could give to,” she said, as she thanked the clergy for the donation, which the nonprofit plans to use to augment mental-health care.
Monsignor Liam Kidney of Corpus Christi reminded everyone that they had no choice in their birth, but “we were gifted with life. God made each of us out of love. Let us go back to God’s dream for us, be as he intended us to be. Share what God intended: love and peace.”
The St. Matthew’s choir performed “For the Beauty of the Earth,” which was amazing to hear in this sanctuary that has almost perfect acoustics.
To view the entire service, visit: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OhRfR4EJI6g)