Service aims to bridge faiths

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Alliance’s ceremony joins county Day of Prayer observance

Denton will have two services Thursday on the National Day of Prayer.

One service — scheduled at noon outside the Courthouse on the Square — is the most recognized in the area. It is led each year by Denton County Christian pastors, lay leaders and guests.

The second service — an interfaith service at 7 p.m. at First United Methodist Church — will be led by pastors of the Denton Faith Alliance, and it is open for people who pray.

The Rev. Pamela Wat, pastor of Denton Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, said it has taken a few years to coordinate an Interfaith National Day of Prayer.

“We had the interfaith 9/11 service for the 10th anniversary in 2011,” Wat said. “That was our first experiment in a large-scale interfaith worship service. It was incredibly successful, and people walked away with this strong sense of unity.”

Wat said her sense is that the religious congregations of Denton are still segregated.

“It takes intentional means to bring us together,” she said. “And so we were really clear after that, afterward, we needed an annual event. We also knew that we didn’t want it to be around something like 9/11 that brought us together. So then we thought, the National Day of Prayer is the next obvious excuse really to come together.

“It took us a couple of years to get the momentum. But this year, we have some really great energy behind it. It’s happening.”

The faith alliance worked to plan a service that intends to inspire religious people who attend. The liturgy will include prayer and music with leaders from Jewish, Buddhist, Baha’i, Muslim, Pagan, Hindu, Unitarian Universalist and Christian traditions.

Wat said the faith alliance drew inspiration from the Plano Interfaith National Day of Prayer.

“They have a long-standing noon event that is more Christian, and then they have an evening event that is sponsored by their multicultural round table,” Wat said. “It was very moving.”

An interfaith observation can do more than unite religious people into a common service. It can give attendees a little glimpse into how people of different faiths worship and pray.

“You’ve got traditions that have prayers that are really, really old, in languages we don’t speak anymore,” Wat said. “There’s ancient Hebrew, Sanskrit, and we’ll have translations projected on a Power Point in those cases.”

Those who attend will use different words to offer prayers of praise, petition and providence. Wat said there will likely be different postures and dress.

“There’s also something really, really beautiful about all of this diversity coming together and looking toward what I would say is the same source,” she said. “Now, we won’t all agree on that, and that’s OK, but I think there’s a lot of power in that. All these different people gazing together at the same source and asking for what is good. Asking for peace and love and justice and whatever it is we will be praying for.”

The noon Denton County National Day of Prayer is open to all. The observance has historically been a Christian one. The majority of National Day of Prayer services across the country are led by Christians and make use of Christian theology. It reflects the National Day of Prayer’s national observance, led this year by honorary chairwoman Anne Graham Lotz, the daughter of evangelical icon Billy Graham.

Wat said the faith alliance believes interfaith work and shared worship can deepen the impact congregations can have in their own backyard. There is still separation and fear among religious groups in Denton, Wat said.

She recalled community service projects the faith alliance has done on Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service — including a project to renovate the playground at Fred Moore Day Nursery School — that brought faith alliance members and their congregations closer.

“I think that this service allows bridging of misunderstandings and healing of fear,” she said. “And it’s an opportunity to be inspired by a tradition that one might not have previously known about. I think the more we can work together with people who are different from us, the more we can work side by side and lift our hearts in praise and worship together, the better it is for our relationships with one another. And the better it is for our communities.

“There’s a lot of work we can do in our communities to help stop fearing one another. And this service is part of that.”

LUCINDA BREEDING can be reached at 940-566-6877.



When: Noon Thursday

Where: On the Hickory Street side of the Courthouse on the Square

Details: The annual Denton County event features music, a color guard, an arch of honor by the Denton Fire Department and a call to prayer. Attendees can get free Bibles, free prayer guides and white yard crosses.

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When: 7 p.m. Thursday

Where: First United Methodist Church of Denton, 201 S. Locust St.

Details: The service includes interfaith prayers and religious music. A collection will be taken for Interfaith Ministries of Denton, a nonprofit organization that provides emergency financial assistance to individuals and families in crisis.

For more information: Email or call 940-381-2457.

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