Unlike any other denomination I know of, my church holds a Thanksgiving Day service. Following a few scriptural readings, everyone is invited to share gratitude for experiences and healings they’ve had relying on God. I’ve looked forward to these Thanksgiving services since I was a small child, participating, and later, even serving as a Reader (like a pastor). I’ve been a member of ten different branch churches wherever I’ve lived, and everyone included a wonderful Thanksgiving Day service.
But the particular branch church I belong to here in Maine has been dwindling. We barely have sufficient members to read, usher, and conduct church business. Heart is still present among the few old members attending the charming 1800s school house which is our edifice. But we’ve had to cut back to only two Sunday services a month, no Wednesday testimony meetings, no Sunday School, and no Thanksgiving service.
Certainly, this Thanksgiving I can express gratitude at home, but it is not the same as hearing from others or being able to share my own experiences. I don’t believe I have ever missed a Thanksgiving service my entire life. I recall as a young child and onward, listening to my parents or grandparents stand and share their healings. Though a shy middle-schooler, I sometimes managed to testify. Always, Thanksgiving morning at church was more memorable than the delicious turkey dinner Mom and I prepared for later. I understood that being grateful to God was most important, essential, and revealing of life’s purpose.
This year will be different. I could listen to an online broadcast from church headquarters in Boston or travel many miles to a Thanksgiving-functioning branch church, but that would not be the same. Participating in one’s own branch church on Thanksgiving was like feasting with family. Even my children participated through the years.
But I am thankful. And isn’t that what matters?
I could be in Gaza or Ukraine. In those surroundings, what is there to be thankful for? I would hope I could feel thanks for the aid workers, doctors, praying families on both sides. I would hope I could see past the death and destruction to an eternal life provided by a loving God. I would hope that the wisdom of Psalms would be with me, for it reminds us often to thank God, Good, and fear no evil because God is with us even when we walk in the shadow of death. I would hope, too, to be persuaded by Romans: that neither death, nor life, more angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God. . . That’s what I would hope if I were there. That’s what I hope here for those that are there. No matter where any of us are, I am grateful this Thanksgiving for God’s ever-present love.
Artwork: Thanksgiving, matted watercolor, approx. 10″ x 14″ $50. Painted with the flow of watercolor capturing a contemplative time many years ago–no model, just my imagination.