First United Methodist Church of Morganton photo

First United Methodist Church of Morganton will host the Community Thanksgiving Service.

Local churches invite the community to a free Thanksgiving service with preaching, music, fellowship and food.

First United Methodist Church of Morganton will host this year’s annual Community Thanksgiving and Worship Music Festival at 5 p.m. Sunday at 200 N. King St. in Morganton, in the sanctuary. A fellowship reception will follow the service.

The Rev. Tommy Carpenter, pastor of Third Creek Baptist Church in Stoney Point in Alexander County, will provide the sermon.

“We have a chance to worship and praise God together in our Earth-suits before that day when there will be a new heaven and a new Earth,” Carpenter said. “We can shake hands, embrace, learn from each other and have a greater respect for one another. We share the same God even when our worship styles may be different.”

Special music will be performed by local church members. Individuals and groups scheduled to perform include Willette McIntosh, minister of music at Shiloh AME Church in Morganton; the Freedom High School Chamber Singers, under the direction of Robert Somerall; and the First Baptist Church and the FUMC hand-bell choirs will perform together under the direction of David Thayer and Linda Noe, who also will ring. The FUMC choir will lead the congregational hymn singing under the direction of Abbi Williams, director of family ministries and interim choir director at FUMC, while Dalton Walters provides accompaniment on the organ.

McIntosh, who has participated in the community Thanksgiving service since its inception, said this type of event is extremely important and beneficial to the community.

“We now live in a time when a community service of this nature is more important than ever,” McIntosh said. “The forces of good and unity must be encouraged and celebrated, and the coming together of the community in this way is a testament to the foresight and dedication of the Morganton Area Ministerial Association. We must continue this tradition, and it may be time to expand the idea to other times of the year.”

MAMA is an organization made up of active and retired clergy from all denominations who meet at Grace Hospital in a classroom near the cafeteria on the first Tuesday each month, except July, for fellowship, information sharing, important programs and to plan special initiatives. The organization has held this event each year since the 1960s.

“I have been the coordinator of the Thanksgiving service for many years now,” said Fred Schuszler, program coordinator at MAMA and the minister of education at FBC. “I think it is a wonderful tradition that brings ministers and congregations from across denominational spectrum to offer thanks together and celebrate our unity in Christ. We are enriched by having different liturgical traditions and musical styles unite in praise to our loving God.”

The event is free and open to the public. Donations will be accepted. All funds collected during the event will benefit the Meeting Place Mission to help the homeless.

“My favorite part is diversity and that all of us can come as one to serve and worship God who created us all with our uniqueness,” Carpenter said.

“I often have questions in my mind of: ‘Why just at this time? Can’t this be ongoing?’ His love is the same 365 days a year. We are a mobile church, so wherever we show up is church, on the corner, at the grocery store, so why just at this time? We ought to be thankful to our creator, God, every day,” Carpenter said.

Barbara Jolly-Deakle is a News Herald correspondent and a member of the Morganton Writers Group. She can be reached at

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