Faith Works 11-10-12
A week from tomorrow night, Nov. 18, in a number of locations around Licking County, church groups will be gathering together for a community Thanksgiving worship service.
These services are always ecumenical in nature, which means they don't do anything that might make it difficult for others to participate, so there's not communion served or creeds said or other things that might be more particular to one faith tradition or another.
In the Lakewood area, the churches around Hebron & Buckeye Lake will be meeting at First Community Church on Walnut Rd. at 7:00 pm.
The Granville Ministerium is having their service at First Presbyterian Church, on the four corners of the village, also at 7:00 pm.
And at 7:00 pm (there's a trend shaping up here), in Newark, the ministerial association is hosting a community Thanksgiving service at Trinity Episcopal Church, just east of Courthouse Square.
(If anyone knows anything about Utica or Pataskala area community Thanskgiving worship, let me know and I'll note it here next week!)
Usually, the service includes some scripture readings on the theme of giving thanks, hymns are sung "Come, Ye Thankful People Come" and "We Gather Together" (Thanksgiving has less music than Christmas, but what it has is really good), and the choirs get together beforehand and prepare an anthem they sing as one.
Then you have an offering, for groups like the Salvation Army, Habitat, the Food Pantry Network, or sometimes a special effort like a shoe recycling drive for third world water supplies. Finally, there's a sermon, and that frequently falls to the new guy or gal in the neighborhood.
Yep, I'm preaching for the Newark service!
The fun part of this for me is that I'm in the (I believe) unique position of having preached all three of the aforementioned annual services. And I've done the Newark Thanksgiving message before, when I was associate pastor at Newark Central, but that was a century ago. Well, in the last century, anyhow.
Where I grew up, the ecumenical Thanksgiving service was a strong downtown tradition, but it was Wednesday night, and unlike many other gatherings in church life, there were usually more men than women. My mom occasionally came to sing with the joint choir, but more often she stayed home, as did many other mothers, doing last minute work on their preparations for Thursday. (They've since moved to the Sunday before, too.)
So my dad and I would go, to the Lutheran or the Methodist or the Presbyterian church building, with everything so familiar and yet so strange inside. And we would go down in the afternoon, before evening fell, in the years when it was at our Disciples of Christ congregation. The heavy old tables with finger-pinching legs, well-battered folding chairs, and rolling coat racks all had to be put in place downstairs, and then up in the sanctuary a little extra vacuuming, cobweb dusting, and neatening of the brochure racks, since company was coming.
I have years of Thanskgiving service sermons rattling around in my head, and they rustle together in an agreeable blur like commencement speeches, each with some unique qualities that stand out just a bit, but generally echoing one another in a reasonable commonality. Give thanks, with a grateful heart, for it could be worse; you could miss some good things wanting too much better, so be thankful for what you have; God has promised blessings enough for today, and more in the fullness of time, for which we could be, should be, must be . . . thankful.
And I think we are, mostly. We live in an era where it seems the whole of the marketplace conspires to make us discontented, to want what we don't have, always, and to consume without satisfaction: yet I hear most of us marveling at our good fortune compared to [insert your preferred comparison here], and ruefully commenting on what we'd like to have or do or be, while tending to end with "but I'm thankful, I really am."
Where we go with that thankfulness, and make a blessing to ourselves and others out of it, is what I think we're going to talk about a week from Sunday night. They tell me I have eight minutes! If you come, I'll be thankful you're there.
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor; tell him what you're thankful for at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.