By Riley Manning
TUPELO – City officials and a diverse group of Tupelo residents took time Monday for a few moments of reflection, prayer, and gratitude at the city-sponsored annual Community Thanksgiving Service.
“This is a time to thank God for the many ways God has blessed our lives,” said the Rev. Paul Stephens, rector of All Saints’ Episcopal Church, host of the event.
Tupelo Fire Chief Thomas Walker delivered a reading from Deuteronomy, which calls the people of God to remember their escape from Egypt, and God’s promise to bring them into the land of milk and honey.
City Council President Nettie Davis and Mayor Jason Shelton addressed the congregation.
“Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate all the fruits of our labor,” Davis said. “It is a time to become cognizant of others and share with the less fortunate. I give thanks for so much love in our city.”
Shelton recalled the words of President Ronald Reagan, who said no custom reveals the character of a nation more than the celebration of Thanksgiving Day.
The mayor said he and Davis had “traveled across the country in the past month, and it was rare to find someone who hasn’t heard of Tupelo,” he said. “We have a reputation across the country as a progressive city. I’m very thankful for that, and this opportunity for all walks of life to come together.”
He continued to point out that Thanksgiving is not about shopping or football – though he did implore all present to come show support for the Tupelo High School football team as they face South Panola on Friday.
Shelton also praised Tupelo’s long-standing pride in its spirit of unity and togetherness.
“I’m blessed to be part of a community with such tradition and heritage,” he said.
After an offering to The Salvation Army and a rendition of “God Bless America” by soloist Larry Montgomery and pianist Terri Blissard, the Rev. Jeffery Gladney, pastor of Red Oak Grove Missionary Baptist Church, dismissed the crowd.
For the Rev. Will Rogers, pastor of Christ the King Lutheran Church, it was a first-time experience.
“It’s comforting to be in a city that can come together in love,” he said. “And knowing you can call on fellow citizens for help, that they are a group that cares.”