Nearly a century and going strong: Interfaith effort brings togetherness in annual Joint Thanksgiving Service

by | Nov 10, 2022 | Trending News

Freemason Street Baptist Church and Ohef Sholom Temple have more things in common than may meet the eye: bringing the community together, breaking bread, giving thanks, and observing their faith in prayer and song for an impressive 95 years.

As the story goes, according to OST’s Rabbi Roz Mandelberg, the houses of worship shared an accompanist who was asked to play at both of their Thanksgiving services. Since she couldn’t be in two places at once, Rabbi says, “She suggested that we join together. It was so successful that it became an annual event.”

The service alternates between the two congregations, with the clergy person from the non-host congregation offering the sermon. It includes a greeting from both FSBC’s Deacon chair as well as OST’s president.

“Choirs are included, sometimes combined, and sometimes just from that year’s home congregation,” Mandelberg adds. Ohef Sholom’s music director, Chuck Woodward, was recently honored for 40 years at OST and has played the event for the duration. The original accompanist who started this amazing tradition was Emily LaBlanc Faber.

“This year will be my seventh year taking part in the Joint Thanksgiving Service shared by Ohef Sholom Temple and Freemason Street Baptist Church,” says Pastor Robert Guffey of Freemason. “I love this service as it is an expression of great joy and a picture of how I think God sees the world—sisters and brothers, children of God, together celebrating unity and cherishing the diversity God has made of us.”

In fact, the service is held in such high esteem that Pastor Guffey says, “In 2016, when I was in the interview process to possibly become the next pastor of Freemason Street Baptist Church, learning of this service and its longevity was a positive influence in decision making.”

Reflecting on the inevitable message of the service, Duffey says, “It’s easy to say you are friends with someone…with only a passing ‘hello’ or wave on the street. It takes being invited and inviting someone into each other’s homes to make it true. Being together in real time makes it so much easier to actually get to know one another…and to actually find out how much we have in common and like each other!

“One of the problems of our current times is that many people do not spend time with someone who is different, or who has a conflicting opinion, or is viewed through the lens of stereotype, indifference or, sadly, distaste, or hate,” says Duffey. “As human beings, God made us to be together and to work together in becoming a community. Being together, getting to know one another as human beings in person makes a big difference. It builds a sense of caring and empathy. It makes it possible not just to co-exist, but to want to cheer one another on toward becoming the best person and community. It takes away fear and replaces it with love.”

This year’s Joint Thanksgiving Service will be held at Freemason Street Baptist Church on Wednesday, November 24, with a 6 pm reception followed by a 7 pm service, with a sermon from Rabbi Roz Mandelberg.

For more information, call 757-625-4295 or visit or

Debbie Burke