By Eileen O. Daday
Daily Herald correspondent
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This year's Interfaith Thanksgiving Service in Buffalo Grove was one of the largest in its 23 years, drawing 1,000 worshippers.
However, one of its founding members, the Rev. Michael McPherson, pastor of Hope Lutheran Church in Long Grove, was missing.
As he was already in the final stages of cancer, clergy members on hand read from one of his sermons that underscored the importance of coming together to worship.
McPherson died three weeks later on Dec. 14. He was 66.
"He was incredibly inspirational and interfaith-oriented," said Richard Rosen, president of the Northwest Suburban Interfaith Council, which has eight churches and temples in Buffalo Grove, Long Grove and Wheeling.
"He talked about the bridging of faith traditions," Rosen added, "that we could agree to disagree but that we could all come together under one tent."
McPherson was ordained into the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in 1973. Less than four years later, he was knocking on doors in the Long Grove and Buffalo Grove communities, inviting families to worship in his new church, Hope Lutheran.
The church now draws nearly 200 families.
"The congregation has grown and thrived under his leadership," said the Rev. Martha Halls, interim pastor. "He preached the gospel and walked with members during some of the most difficult times of their lives."
McPherson's ministry, however, stretched across the area in his passion for interfaith understanding and tolerance.
Rabbi Stephen Hart of Temple Chai in Long Grove, described McPherson as a "friend and colleague" and the first person he thought of when introducing a "Bridges of Understanding" initiative.
They invited McPherson to share the pulpit with their temple community on one of the High Holy Days.
"Pastor McPherson graciously accepted," Hart said, "and gave a powerful and inspirational talk on what it means to see the face of God in the other."
McPherson is survived by his wife, Nancy, and children Amy (Joe) Herron, Amanda (T.J.) Dziekanski and Michael (Kelly) McPherson, and eight grandchildren.
Visitation will be held 5:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday at Hope Lutheran Church, 1660 Checker Road in Long Grove. On Friday, he will lie in repose beginning at 9:30 a.m. at Holy Cross Lutheran Church, 29700 N. St. Mary's Road in Libertyville, followed by an 11 a.m. celebration of life service.