Passages from the Torah — the first five books of the Hebrew bible — echoed through St. Paul’s/San Pablo Episcopal Church.
It was an unfamiliar sound for some in attendance.
On Sunday, members of different religions came together to celebrate the annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Service at the Salinas San Pablo/St.Paul Episcopal Church.
“When God began to create the heaven and the earth, the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep, and the spirit of God was hovering over the face of the water,” chanted Cantor Margaret Bruner in Hebrew. “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”
The full chant was repeated in Spanish, followed by an excerpt from Braiding Sweetgrass .
Last year's service was done through a livestream due to COVID-19 restrictions, and had only been held at all a handful of times prior to the pandemic. Attendees were instructed to keep their masks on at all times, said Steven Lundin, pastor of the First United Methodist Church.
“This is a group that we started about five years ago,” Lundin said. “We keep trying to expand it to include more faiths, so we could come together to serve and to work for the common good of our community.”
In February the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) published considerations to help communities of faith practice their beliefs while keeping their congregations safe.
These include: correctly and consistently wearing a mask, avoiding poorly ventilated spaces, staying at least six feet away from people in different households, hand-washing, getting tested, and getting vaccinated.
With these considerations in place during the interfaith service, all who attended were able to come together and connect in-person over the shared purpose of celebrating Thanksgiving and each other.
Seven churches, a temple, and the Sufi Tradition were represented by the Interfaith Group of Salinas at the service.
Members of Estampa De Las Americas dancers were also in attendance and danced on stage, with their vibrant red dresses swinging from side to side as they performed the upbeat traditional baile folklorico dance.
“So, friends, every day do something that won’t compute,” Rev. Andy Rausch of Northminster Presbyterian said in the concluding prayer. “Love the Lord. Love the world. Work for nothing. Plant sequoias. Be joyful though you have considered all the facts. And practice resurrection.”
David Rodriguez is the education reporter and staff photographer for The Salinas Californian. For any tips or story ideas you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Subscribe to support local journalism.
This article originally appeared on Salinas Californian: ‘Let there be light’: Church brings community together with interfaith service