A feeling of sadness colored the otherwise joyful Interfaith Thanksgiving Service held Sunday at Temple B'nai Israel in Aurora.
The sadness was the result of the sudden death on Nov. 15 of the temple's Rabbi Shmuel Mann, who friends and colleagues say had been a driving force behind the annual interfaith event, now in its sixth year. Leaders from several different faiths praised Mann during the service.
"In so many ways, he changed Aurora for the better," said the Rev. Jeff Mikyska, pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church.
After paying tribute to their former colleague, the representatives from local Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Baha'i groups followed Mann's guidance by calling for peace among all people, regardless of their religious or cultural backgrounds.
"We are all the family of God -- brothers and sisters, regardless of our differences," Mikyska said.
Sunday's service featured short talks from the faith leaders, performances by two interfaith choirs and a celebratory meal. Monetary and food donations were collected for the Aurora Area Interfaith Food Pantry.
Attendees also helped decorate two Gratitude Trees, which will be on display at the food pantry during the holiday season. The decorations were paper leaves on which people wrote down things for which they are thankful.
Gratitude was, in fact, a major theme of the evening. The Rev. Cyndi Gavin of St. John United Church of Christ said that in part, gratitude requires the ability to be thankful for the present moment.
"(That) makes you see that past regrets are only the necessary steps that brought you here," she said.
Ronald Raymer of the Aurora Jewish Renewal Congregation suggested that people recite blessings after their meals, rather than before. Doing so, he said, might cause people to be more thankful for what they have and more committed to help those in need.
Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner thanked those who organized and attended Sunday's service.
"This event reaffirms my believe that yes, we can put aside our differences, we can work together to better our community," he said.