Arik Luck is inviting a few guests over for Thanksgiving – a few hundred guests, that is. As cantor of Beth Emet synagogue, Mr. Luck and his congregation will be welcoming Evanstonians of all faiths to an interfaith celebration the night before turkey day.

Now an established tradition, the 14th annual Interfaith Thanksgiving service, sponsored by Interfaith Action of Evanston, blends liturgy, prayers and sacred music from the community’s diverse congregations.

Mr. Luck is especially excited, he says, because this year he and colleague Reverend Vernon Clark of Second Baptist church will be co-leading a choir made up of members of both congregations.  The blended choirs have performed together at Martin Luther King and 9/11 observances and enjoy sharing their different styles.  Cantor Luck firmly believes that sacred music transcends individual traditions.

“The legacy of sacred music is so rich that it would be an incredible disservice to reject a piece just because it doesn’t come from one’s own religious tradition,” he says. “If a piece moves me, I consider it Jewish.”

The music in the service takes inspiration from gospel and Jewish liturgy, and will express themes of healing and feeding the hungry. Cantor Luck is contributing some original music he composed with Barb Wertico, and the congregation will be encouraged to sing along.

This musical blending echoes the theme of unity espoused by Father Bill Tkachuk of St. Nicholas Catholic Church, who will be delivering the service’s message.

“I view our tradition of Thanksgiving Day as an opportunity to come together as people of many faiths and give thanks to the God of blessings whom we address by many names and worship through many diverse traditions,” says Father Bill.
The unity theme is especially relevant, he says, given the recent killing of Evanston teen Dajae Coleman.

“This year’s service has special importance as we heal from the violence that claimed an innocent life and continues to disturb our peace.  We are challenged to renew our commitment to one another and to give thanks for God’s gift of one another and the resources to care for the vulnerable and hurting among us,” Father Bill says.

Bringing faith communities together to care for the vulnerable is the mission of Interfaith Action, recently honored by the Evanston Community Foundation for 25 years of sustained impact in Evanston.  In a way, the service can be interpreted as a public “thank you” to the many people who make IAE’s work happen.

“I look forward each year to IAE’s interfaith Thanksgiving service. It’s a truly joyous celebration, bringing people from many different faiths and ethical traditions together to give thanks, through words and music, for the many blessings we’ve received,” says IAE president Carolyn Gifford. “IAE is especially grateful for the dedicated efforts of hundreds of volunteers who faithfully serve our hungry and homeless neighbors throughout the year at IAE’s Hospitality Center, soup kitchens and warming centers.”

The service is at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 21 at the Beth Emet Synagogue, 1224 Dempster St. All are welcome.