The city of Tupelo will celebrate its annual Thanksgiving Service at noon Monday. Mission Mississippi, an organization that promotes unity between black and white Christians, took over planning of this year’s service from the Greater Tupelo Ministerial Alliance, and the organization has made a couple of changes. Last year’s service was held at the Link Centre in the evening, but this year’s service will be at First United Methodist Church at noon.
Dr. Ed Holliday, one of the leaders of the Tupelo-Lee County Chapter of Mission Mississippi, spoke to the Daily Journal about his organization’s plans for the service.
Q:Planning for the service has changed hands a couple of times over the past few years. Do you see this organization retaining responsibility for it in years to come?
A:I don’t know what Mission Mississippi will do as far as hosting the event in the future, but for this year we are looking forward to hosting. Our strength is in building relationships between people. The community Thanksgiving service is also about building relationships, so there is a common thread and we hope that our citizens will use that common thread to weave new and stronger relationships. I cannot imagine the citizens of Tupelo not having this time of fellowship and focus on Thanksgiving.
Q:Because the service is a citywide event, some feel that all religions should be represented, and that the prayers and the format should be as inclusive as possible. Others feel that a more explicitly Christian service is proper. Dr. Jay Dey, who is Hindu, will be the featured speaker this year, and Bob Schwartz, a member of Jewish Temple B’Nai Israel, will also speak. Where do you stand on the character of the service and how broad it should be?
A:Since this is a community service, we knew that we needed to be inclusive. I like involving different faiths, and I don’t believe this needs to be an exclusively Christian event. This is a unique American holiday when we can all come together and give thanks. Even though, in Tupelo, we live in a predominantly Christian culture, Mission Mississippi realizes that we need to invite people of all faiths to be part of this service. Because of time constraints, we regret that we might have overlooked inviting some faiths this time, but we hope, in years to come, to make sure all of Tupelo’s faith communities are represented at the service.
Q:When it began in the 1970s, the service was hosted by churches. Later, it moved to what planners considered a neutral location, the Link Centre, and was held in the evening. This year you’ve returned to holding the service at a church. You’ve also gone to a midday start time. Please explain these choices.
A:We are holding the service at noon in hope of reaching out to some who were unable to attend before, especially those who had family travel and obligations on Thanksgiving Day. We were asked to host the service on short notice and First Methodist Church graciously offered their sanctuary to help us plan quickly.
NEMS Daily Journal