Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanksgiving service shows the diversity and community feeling in Midway

By Adrian Rudd
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Pastor Judy Stallons greeted a diverse group of parishioners on the doorstep of Midway United Methodist Church Monday evening, as it hosted the annual community Thanksgiving service sponsored by the Midway Ministerial Association.

Members of several different church communities gathered together to give thanks in light of the holiday season. This service is just one of several times a year that Midway churches worship together despite their differences in denomination.

“We do a Martin Luther King worship service, a sunrise service on Easter, and a peace service for 9/11, and we rotate which church hosts,” said Stallons.

The Thanksgiving service filled churchgoers with holiday spirit while also celebrating diversity. The gathering music featured special guests, siblings Chakrapani and Bhavani Gudlavelleti, performing the national anthem of India, “Jana Gana Mana,” and India’s national song, “Vande Mataram.”

The Midway University Chorale filled the church with beautiful melodies, leading the congregation in several hymns throughout the service.

Brother Chris Wright, pastor of Pilgrim Baptist Church, spoke about something that unites all Christians this holiday season, giving thanks to God.

“Thanksgiving is what flows from our hearts,” he preached. “It’s not what’s going to be on the table, it’s not Black Friday, it’s not about the things we will buy.”

Wright’s message was answered with frequent ‘amens’ from the congregation of about 50 people from various Midway churches. He prompted several laughs as well when he urged Christians not to shop on Black Friday.

“My wife is already telling me I’m going shopping with her, and I don’t like shopping,” he smiled, “I don’t think Christians ought to shop on Black Friday. It’s hard to be a Christian on Black Friday.”

All jokes aside, Wright’s message about giving thanks was heard and well received.

“Thanksgiving is an opportunity to remember the beautiful God we serve,” he proclaimed.

While in many small towns people may stay isolated within their own churches, these community-oriented worship services are just one example of how Midway stands out from other communities.

Stallons, pastor at the Methodist church for five and a half years, wrote a letter to The Woodford Sun last week, thanking the community of Midway for the prayers and generosity she received with the recent passing of her younger sister.

“Somebody brought me a casserole, and you know, they’re not from my church,” Stallons said in an interview. “Being a pastor, I don’t expect people from other churches to do that sort of thing. The fact that people from other churches reached out meant a lot.”

After growing up around various cities in Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois, the warmth that Stallons received from the Midway community came as a pleasant surprise to her.

“People from the Christian Church greeted me in restaurants,” she said. “People from the Presbyterian Church would stop and say they were praying for me.”

In his message to the congregation, Wright restated the importance of embracing differences and recognizing the common thread between all people.

“Part of embracing diversity is being comfortable with yourself,” said Wright, an African American.
The attendees were clearly comfortable with each other, exchanging hugs, handshakes, and laughs before and after the worship service.

This culture of accepting others across boundaries brings support to people in the community during difficult times, and brings joy to everyone during the holiday season. 

Mary Wright of Pilgrim Baptist was especially joyful following the Thanksgiving service.

“I think these events are wonderful for the community,” she said. “I would love to see more of it.”

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