Tricentennial to start with non-denominational service

Published 12:03 am Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Illustration by Ben Hillyer

Illustration by Ben Hillyer

The start of 2016 is just a couple of days away, but the official beginning of the Natchez Tricentennial won’t clink and boom with a champagne toast or fireworks over the river.

It will begin in reverence and thanks for the blessings bestowed upon Natchez for the past 300 years.

The Unity, Prayer and Praise Celebration Saturday will mark the official beginning of the 300th birthday celebration, and organizer Karen Dardick says there is no better way to start the tricentennial.

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“There’s a deep peace and a deep spirituality about this region, and I (think) it is appropriate to start by thanking God for our blessings and coming together as a community to do this,” Dardick said.

The event came about after Dardick began to learn more about the tricentennial and the parties and celebrations that would accompany it. Dardick talked to tricentennial director Jennifer Ogden Combs about the idea of beginning the tricentennial with a prayer and praise event.

From there, Dardick put together a tricentennial committee with resident Carolyn Ridley that has met over the past year. The faith committee members represent a variety of denominations and faiths, Dardick said.

The Unity, Prayer and Praise event will also include songs and readings by members of several churches in Natchez.

Participating churches include Christ Life, Holy Family Catholic Church, Temple B’nai Israel, Zion Chapel African Methodist Episcopal, Parkway Baptist, St. Mary Catholic Church, First Baptist and Pilgrim Baptist.

Dardick said regardless of denomination or faith, the event will be open to everyone.

“In keeping with the tricentennial’s mission, it is non-denominational and community-oriented, so no matter what religion or faith one has or doesn’t have, it is an opportunity to acknowledge our gratitude to God,” she said.

Combs said she thinks it is important to start the tricentennial with Unity, Prayer and Praise because community is at the heart of 2016.

“(It is) a year that belongs to everyone, not any one particular group or organization or religion or race, but all of us,” Combs said. “We are such a diverse community with many different traditions and cultures, and we have many ways we celebrate that diversity. But however we celebrate our spiritual or faith traditions, we in Natchez have a lot to be grateful for. Unity, Prayer and Praise is an opportunity to start off the year by coming together as one community, to say ‘thank you’ for the blessings of 300 years.”

Dardick said the faith committee also hopes to close out 2016 with another Unity, Prayer and Praise event.

“We hope this will just be the beginning,” she said.

Saturday’s event begins at 10 a.m. at the Natchez City Auditorium.

Tricentennial celebrations will continue in January, the tricentennial theme for which is “Our Roots,” with several officially sanctioned tricentennial events throughout the month. They include:

• Jan. 4 — Natchez Legends and Lore at 5:30 p.m. at the Historic Natchez Foundation featuring HNF Executive Director Mimi Miller as the speaker on 300 years of Natchez history.

• Jan. 11 — Natchez Legends and Lore at 5:30 p.m. at the HNF featuring Jim Wiggins on slavery and Natchez.

• Jan. 14-16 — Artist workshop: oil painting with Jackson Hole, Wyo., artist

• Jan. 25 — Natchez Legends and Lore at 5:30 p.m. at the HNF featuring Ben Hillyer, news editor of The Natchez Democrat, on 150 years of the newspaper.

• Jan. 28 — Coming Home: A tribute to renowned Natchez artists reception, 5-7 p.m. at the HNF.

The Tricentennial Arts Committee is sponsoring a month-long art show/sale featuring Vidal Blankenstein, Dale Campbell Fairbanks, Susan Colter Hollingsworth, Noah Saterstrom and Will Smith Jr. The exhibit is free and open to the public.

The cocktail reception will mark opening night of the exhibit, and residents are invited to meet the artists at the reception jointly sponsored by the HNF and arts committee.

For more information about all events happening in January and throughout the tricentennial celebration, view the calendar for 2016 online at