Congregations will join together in the name of unity at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Temple Beth Israel for the 78th annual 6th Ward interfaith Thanksgiving service.
Monsignor Stanley Carson of the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church will be delivering the sermon.
His message is "Appreciate Imperfect Gifts."
(Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich) Among the participants in the annual 6th Ward Thanksgiving service are (from left): Norma Sevel of Temple Beth Israel, Pastor Denise Arpino of Simpson-Temple United Parish, Pastor Evie Madison of Jaggard United Methodist Church, and Alice Lawrence of Mount Zion Baptist Church. The houses of worship will each contribute a piece of fabric at the service that will be used to make a banner representing the 6th Ward interfaith group.
Participants and attendees are invited to bring a piece of fabric to the service, which will later be made into a banner to be used in upcoming 6th Ward events.
"It will celebrate who we are in all our diversity and yet our unity for the good of all people," said the Rev. Denise Arpino, pastor of Simpson-Temple United Parish.
This year's service will differ from previous ones because it will be held in conjunction with the Ecumenical Conference of Greater Altoona.
"For years it was just a 6th Ward event. Last year we began giving thought and prayer to expanding that," Arpino said. "We just wanted to extend our arms to invite and welcome more people to be a part of that."
Arpino said the service has endured throughout the decades because of its primary theme: thankfulness. "Thankfulness is something we always need to be about," she said. "We can do that in spite of our differences. It's part of our makeup as human beings to be thankful, and as believers to express our thanks to God."
The congregations in the 6th Ward take on different responsibilities in the service by offering the welcome, taking the offering or leading prayers with music from a combined choir.
Arpino said the offering may be monetary or personal hygiene and paper products for area social service agencies to distribute to people in need.
The Rev. Evelyn Madison, pastor of Jaggard United Methodist Church, has been involved in planning this year's service.
"We all participate. We alternate where we have the service," she said.
"It's one of the longest running services in the country. It gives us a chance to come together as God's people from our various traditions and give thanks together, Madison said."
Sandra Knepp, president of Temple Beth Israel which is hosting this year's event, said the main idea of the interfaith Thanksgiving service is bringing the community together.
"Anything that we can do to foster understanding is good," Knepp said. "This is a wonderful opportunity for people to come together, and I hope we have a lovely turnout.