Interfaith service unified in support of troops

Monday, October 11th 2004, 6:02 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ Religious leaders from several faiths joined in Tulsa Saturday for an interfaith ceremony in support of the nation's service men and women and their families.

Catholics, Protestants, Mormons, Unitarians, American Indians, Jews and Muslims came together for the service, and peace and unity were the themes of their prayers.

American Indian Clark Inkanish opened the interfaith service with a traditional cedar ceremony, explaining that the prayer was for blessings from the Creator.

The crowd filled more than half of Boston Avenue United Methodist Church's large sanctuary in downtown Tulsa.

``I am pleased to see the sign of the circle wherever I encounter it,'' Inkanish said, gazing up at the stained-glass dome that adorns the sanctuary's ceiling. ``We have a circle here. It tells me we are all related.''

The theme of unity, tolerance and support continued through the hourlong service.

A responsive reading was led by Don Mason from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He read passages of support and prayer from the Bible, the Quran, the Torah, the Book of Mormon and other texts.

The Rev. Marlin Lavanhar, senior minister of All Souls Unitarian Church, provided words of support and comfort for the troops.

``It's incredible in the scope of human history what we are doing together today,'' he said. ``It's an incredible, incredible thing. This is an amazing example of people stretching out their arms to cross all faiths.''

The service was sponsored by the National Conference for Community and Justice, Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry, the Jewish Federation of Tulsa and the Islamic Society of Tulsa, but more than religious organizations were represented.

The Blue Star Mothers _ a group of women with children serving in the military _ was there, represented by Barbara Porter. She urged people to continue to support the troops.

``We cannot do enough to show these men and women that we support them,'' she said.

Mayor Bill LaFortune later presented Porter with a proclamation that Oct. 10, 2004, was Blue Star Mothers Day in Tulsa.

Sgt. 1st Class Billy Nichols, who is with the Oklahoma Military Department's Family Program Office, called the service impressive. ``I have never experienced anything like that,'' he said.

Nichols works full time in the Army to support the families of the soldiers who are away at war. His office acts as a liaison on behalf of the soldiers in any financial issues that arise while they are away. It also provides the families a shoulder to lean on, he said.

He was pleased to see the turnout for the service and the willingness of Tulsans to support the troops, he said.

``It's helping the people at home, and the soldiers know we're thinking about them,'' Nichols said, ``so all around, it's helping everyone.''