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Members of Athens' various faith communities gather at City Hall on Friday, June 19, 2020 in Athens, Georgia. The Interfaith Clergy Partnership of Greater Athens hosted a prayer vigil on Juneteenth, and about fifty religious leaders and community members gathered in person. (Photo/Taylor Gerlach; @taylormckenzie_photo)

On Sunday at 4 p.m. the Interfaith Clergy Partnership of Greater Athens will host its fifth annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Worship Service — this time via Zoom. 

ICPGA consists of at least 55 different congregations and about 10 different faiths, said Rev. Kathleen Deegan-Neal, a retired United Methodist pastor and committee member for the Thanksgiving service.

The partnership aims to incorporate these numerous faith traditions into their Thanksgiving service and promote unity across the many different religions practiced in Athens.

“Though we may be from different religious groups, we have a lot in common,” said Sohayl Moshtael, ICPGA’s secretary and a representative of the Baha’i Faith. “Regardless of their religious views or racial background, or any other distinctions, we would love everyone to be a part of our family.”

Although the celebration will be very different than it was in previous years due to the CDC’s social distancing guidelines for the coronavirus, organizers say the intentions for the service will be very much the same.

Every year the partnership selects a charity to support through donations made during the service. This year the organization chose the Family Connection-Communities In Schools of Athens.

According to its website, FCCSA is committed to improving child and family well-being as well as surrounding students with a community of support to encourage continuing education.

Michaela Lawrence Jeffrey, a pastor at Athens Georgia Seventh-day Adventist Church, said this year's charity was chosen to give thanks to those working in areas that heal the community such as healthcare, education and social justice. 

Moshtael said this ties in perfectly with the service’s theme this year, which is “gratitude for a compassionate community.”

Compassion for the community has never been more important than it is now. In a year as chaotic as this one, Moshtael said it is a good time to honor those who put their lives on the line to keep the community moving forward.

“I would love for people to join this service as a way of going through this communal lifting of spirits. I think that’s so necessary right now,” Jeffrey said.

All are welcome to join the service on Zoom. There will be choral music and a diverse group of musicians and speakers, including Revs. Julie Carter, Diane Bales and B.A. Hart.

“Athens is a beautifully diverse community and the diverse faith communities are one important part of the fabric of our community,” said Deegan-Neal, “[a]nd it has been so important for us to get to know one another in times when diversity has been polarizing instead of uniting.”