The spacious sanctuary of St. Laurence Catholic Church in Sugar Land was filled near to capacity Monday for the Fort Bend Interfaith Thanksgiving Service, where representatives of various faiths offered prayers and reflections from each of their traditions that resonated with the evening's theme, "Together in Love and Friendship."

It was the first time the annual event, presented by the Fort Bend Interfaith Community, was held in person since 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic. In the previous two years, the event was held virtually.

"It's been three years, but we're here," Fr. Drew Wood, pastor at St. Laurence, said in opening remarks, to the applause of the attendees who had braved some somewhat dreary weather to come to the event.

"We are here to be respectful towards each other, to get to know each other a little better, and to pray for peach in the world, peach in our country, peace in our families," he said.

Among the highlights of the event: the festival choir of Christ Church Sugar Land performed a song titled "Total Praise"; a choir from the Ismaili Jamatkhana and Center performed a song based on a poem by Iman al-Busiri; Cantor Renee Waghalter sang a moving Jewish prayer; and three monks from the Universal Door Buddhist Medication Center used glasses filled with water - from pure clear to muddied -- to illustrate how people's life experiences and confuse them about their true selves.

Members of Hindus of Greater Houston, wearing full costumes and makeup, enacted a skit telling the stories of Ram and Krishna, manifestations of God in the Hindu faith. A group of Sikh musicians sang and played a Punjabi song of prayer on traditional instruments.

After a benediction by Pastor Will Starkweather of St. Martin's Lutheran Church, the service ended with choir made up of youth from various religious traditions performing a song titled "Let There be Peace on Earth," which was joined in by the attendees. Afterward, a reception was held in St. Laurence's community center.

The Fort Bend Interfaith Community formed about a decade ago, largely spearheaded by Rabbi Josh Lobel, then of Congregation Beth El (who has sent moved to another state), according to Nihal Zakaria, a member of the the FBIC board. Lobel and Zakaria, an attorney and member of the Maryam Islamic Center who was associated with Interfaith Ministries of Greater Houston, agreed that Fort Bend, a highly religiously diverse community, needed an interfaith organization of its own, Zakaria said.

Aside from the annual interfaith service, the FBIC holds annual Dinner Dialogues, where people of different faiths have dinner together and engage in conversation, and youth projects, including the annual Martin Luther King Youth Day of Service.

Other than those already mentioned, the area faith communities that participated in this year's event were: Thoreau Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fort Bend, Houston Baptist Church, JBB Jain Society, and Bahai'i Faith of Sugar and and Fort Bend. They represent only some of the FBIC's member organizations, which can be found at fbictx.org.

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