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Some 20 Madison-area churches to unite for Thanksgiving service Monday

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Our Lady

More than 20 Christian congregations will gather Monday evening for the first Madison-area ecumenical Thanksgiving service in recent history.

Church leaders from the Catholic, Orthodox, mainline Protestant, Evangelical and African American communities helped plan the one-hour service, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday at Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish, 418 Holly Ave.

The prayer service has room for more than 1,000 people and will emphasize commonalities across denominations, said organizer John Schmitz.

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“The common ground is: We all recognize that we need to count our blessings, and see the glass as half full and recognize that our blessings come from God,” said Schmitz, a lay member of Blessed Sacrament Catholic Parish.

“It’s an important event for all of us. Given the response we’ve had so far, there’s a lot of interest,” said Deacon Mark Zwolski of Our Lady Queen of Peace. He said the service will be filmed and an online link will be distributed to all the participating churches before Thanksgiving.

Participants will include two Christian campus organizations, Schmitz said, and about 20% of the service will be in Spanish. Madison Diocese Bishop Donald Hying will give a reflection, a half-dozen area pastors will lead the service in prayer, and three or four choirs will sing.

“We’re going to show the spirit of togetherness by representing our diversity,” Zwolski said.

A collection of cash and food donations will be taken to benefit three area food pantries, Schmitz said. A networking reception will follow the service in hopes that congregations will build more ways to connect.

Schmitz got the idea for the service earlier this year after speaking with Hying and Lighthouse Church pastor Marcio Sierra Jr., he said. In July, Schmitz started making some 40 calls to churches across Madison, with many showing interest. He said he regrets he did not have time to personally phone every church in the city, but he hopes they will reach out and consider participating next year.

Some churches that already have a tradition in place to hold a paired Thanksgiving service with another church also chose to continue that tradition rather than to participate in the all-city service, Schmitz said.

“We’re hoping this is the first of what will become an annual event,” hosted by a different church each year, he said of the service. “I’ve come to see that we as churches really need each other, and the city needs us.”

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