Ogden's diverse faiths on display at Thanksgiving service

Saturday , November 11, 2017 - 5:00 AM

SARAH WELLIVER/Standard-Examiner

Erik Stern performs at his home Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2017, in Ogden. Stern will be one of the featured presenters during the annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Service. The event will be held 5 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 19, at Your Community Connection in Ogden.

JANAE FRANCIS, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — For Erik Stern, a member of the Ogden Congregation Brith Sholem synagogue, his faith’s deeply eclectic music creates a sense of awe he strives to share.

“There is incredible richness. I get to hear music from all over,” Stern said of sacred Jewish music. Because of the ancient scattering of the Jews to many different continents, the faith’s music is influenced by cultures from across the globe.  

As violence is proof of misunderstandings around the world, Stern said now is a perfect time for people to get to know the traditions of others.

Stern is one of nearly a dozen performers and speakers who will be featured at this year’s Interfaith Thanksgiving Service as it offers a quick look into to the religious diversity of Ogden. He will be singing and performing a Jewish selection on the guitar.

Hosted by Ogden’s Interfaith Works, the event is planned for 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 19, at Your Community Connection, 2261 Adams Ave. in Ogden.

Stern said his goal is to follow the dictates found in both the Torah and the Old Testament of the Bible in Psalm 33.

“We are supposed to give thanks by creating noise,” Stern said. 

“Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him,” reads the first verse in the New International Version of the Bible.

“That’s what they are doing, creating music in relation to Thanksgiving,” Stern said.

One of the Jewish songs Stern has written is based on the opening lines of this chapter of scripture.

Also featured at the event will be an introduction by Rev. Nancy Groshart of Good Shepherd Episcopal Church of Ogden and prayers by Lacee Harris, a Ute/Piute spiritual leader and Rev. Vanessa Cato, rector at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church.

Musical selections will be offered by Dan Arnow of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden, Dan Litchford of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and The Lux Women’s Chorus.  

Remarks will come from Rev. Shelley Page of Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden, Bob Adams of the Greek Orthodox Church of the Transfiguration and Rev. Ali Benjamin of The Satya Center for Spiritual Living

Monks of Wat Chaimongkolvararam Thai Buddhist Temple of Ogden will provide meditative chanting.

All those involved will be showing samples of what draws them to their faith.

Stern said his music is unique, especially in this area.

“In Utah, there is an abundance of Christian music,” he said.

Ogden’s Congregation Brith Sholem is touted as the oldest continuously running Jewish synagogue in Utah.

“We’re very proud to have that position of being historically significant and continuously supporting the community,” said synagogue President Judi Amsel.

Between 40 and 50 households attend regularly, Amsel said.

“Our membership includes Jews from all kinds of backgrounds as well as their friends,” she said. “So many of our families are interfaith families.”

Services generally are held at 7 p.m. Fridays at the synagogue, at 2750 Grant Ave. in Ogden. Visitors always are welcome, Amsel said.

A Jewish tradition of sharing their faith with others is evident in Stern’s passion for his music.

The grandson of a rabbi and son of a faithful Jew, Stern said he grew up hearing Jewish music from all around the world and now that eclectic feel helps him to feel connected to the world.

His songs display influences from North America, South America, the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

The frequent performer said he’s never quite sure what he’ll be moved to perform or what area of the world his songs will come from until he is inspired right before he shares his music.

He’s hoping to incorporate an audience participation song, even though such an effort is difficult for him to prepare when the music generally is in Hebrew.

“It’s not like anybody’s going to learn Hebrew,” Stern said. “A language carries with it more than the meaning of the words.”

He said Judaism can be seen as both a faith and a discipline. “It’s supposed to be intellectually challenging. ... They should decide for themselves,” Stern said.

In its urging for individual thought, Stern said he believes Judaism is a different experience than most people find in their faith traditions.

Groshart, the organizer of this year’s Interfaith Thanksgiving Service, said she hopes to provide an enriching experience for those in attendance.

“We are grateful for the diversity in our community, which helps foster communication, fellowship and respect for the people of Ogden and the surrounding communities,” Groshart said. “Interfaith Works is proud to offer this event every year.”

You may reach reporter JaNae Francis at jfrancis@standard.net or 801-625-4228. Follow her on Twitter at @JaNaeFrancisSE or like her on Facebook at facebook.com/SEJaNaeFrancis.