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Alternative Resources for Discovering and Celebrating Emmanuel Throughout the Year!

Making Thanksgiving ThanksLiving

 As a day that gives voice to our highest ideals, Thanksgiving can be a time to remember with gratitude and humility that we alone are not responsible for whatever bounty is in our lives. It can be a time to confess that part of our bounty has come at the expense of others, including native Americans, slaves, farm workers, and hosts of others we do not even know. It can also be a time to share what we have with others, and include in our celebrations those who would otherwise be alone.


Finally, Thanksgiving can be a time to commit ourselves to creating a world where hungry children are fed, the homeless are provided with shelter, and those who suffer discrimination because of race, sex, religion, or age are respected.

 Five grains of corn


In early New England, at Thanksgiving time it was customary to place five grains of corn at every plate. This served as a reminder of those stern days in the first winter when the Pilgrims' food was so depleted that only five grains of corn were rationed to each individual at a time. The Pilgrims wanted their children to remember the sacrifices, the sufferings, the hardships which made possible the settlement of a free people in a free land. They did not want their descendants to forget that on the day on which their ration was reduced to five grains of corn only seven healthy colonists remained to nurse the sick, and nearly half their number already lay in that windswept graveyard on the hill.

- Plymouth Congregational U.C.C., Des Moines, lowa

A day of many projects to help people


Feasting has its place in our lives. Few of us are called to unrelenting austerity, and God's bounty is certainly worth celebrating. We don't want to recommend that joyous banqueting be removed from our lives, but that we look at it in a different way. At Thanksgiving, we tend to make a ritual of feeding ourselves and our friends to the point of gluttony, and we only remember the world's hungry in an abstract way. New traditions at this time could serve not only to remind us of our heritage and abundance, but also provide direct action to help those who do not have the advantages we have.


First United Methodist Church in Rule, Texas, lived out a parable. Several weeks before Thanksgiving, their pastor gave each person a certain amount of money - five dollars to one, two dollars to another, etc. She asked them to serve as stewards and see what they could do with that money for the church. The report on Thanksgiving Day was of many projects to help people, to raise money for the church, and to enhance church life; and the congregation learned a new dimension to stewardship.

 Individually and as families

1. Extend your family by inviting one or more people who would be alone to share your dinner. Consider especially those who seem unlovely and unloved.


2. Eat simply, or even fast, on Thanksgiving Day. You could use the time you would have spent preparing and eating a large meal in prayers of thanksgiving and intercession. Send what you would normally have spent for dinner to a local hunger pantry or project.

 As a Congregation


1. Hold a church family dinner. Invite church families to bring their Thanksgiving dinner to share with those who are alone or needy. In one community, several churches got together and held a free, all-day feast (10:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m.), for those in need. Church members agreed to provide food, fellowship, and various kinds of activities (hymn sings, inspirational talks, films, prayer vigils) throughout the day. Radio publicity and posters brought in many who otherwise would have had little to be thankful for.


2. Several congregations hold "Fastathons" over Thanksgiving. Members ask friends to sponsor them at 10 cents to 25 cents per hour, and join others who are fasting in the church fellowship hall from suppertime Wednesday through suppertime Thursday. (Some bring sleeping bags, others go home to sleep.)


During this fast, films are shown, magazines and books are available, and simulation games are played to teach hunger facts. Worship services, prayer vigils, and Bible studies focus on God's concern for the world's poor. Money raised is donated to projects designed to help people help themselves. Each "Fastathon" concludes with a community supper of rice and tea, and Communion.

- Patti Sprinkle, St. Petersburg, Florida

 Consider using the Thanksgiving season as a time to start a voluntary simplicity study-action project which would end with an alternative Christmas campaign. (Or maybe not end at all!)

Community Meal


 We had a number of people who were new to the community and without ties to family and friends here. So several men in the church volunteered to cook turkey for Thanksgiving for these people. One woman made a list of things to bring and filled in names of persons willing to bake a pie or bring a vegetable. Many of us were skeptical about how well it would come off, but about two weeks before the holiday approximately 35 people had signed up. We ended up with 60. One of the former ministers of the church came back with his family, so this became a way that they could share in the giving of thanks. While many single people showed up, a surprising number of families did too. Mothers escaped the labor of slaving all day in the kitchen for one big orgy, followed by endless dishwashing while the men watched football.


Before and after the meal, there were puzzles, games, and discussion starters. Someone was going to bring a television, but fortunately it was broken, so all of us escaped the trappings of the "boob-tube." After the dinner, the price of the meal was announced and people were asked to donate about a dollar if they could.


It was a real success. Another event was planned for New Year's Day and people are thinking about it for this year again. While the idea is simple, it provided a real opportunity for people without a place to celebrate Thanksgiving and an alternative for those traditionally trapped by "family."

   - Rev. Jerry Haas, Pacific Beach United Methodist Church, San Diego, California

Links to Internet Stories

 6 ‘True History of Thanksgiving’ Stories, Which Do You Believe?  Read more


 What Really Happened at the First Thanksgiving? The Wampanoag Side of the Tale  Read more


New Thanksgiving Hymns by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette  Click Here

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