The Reader's Rumblings - Oct 2016

Most people have heard of Thanksgiving – the national holiday in the United States. It originated as a harvest festival and has been celebrated as a federal holiday since 1863, when Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of 'Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.' And that is the theme of Thanksgiving in the USA – when they set aside time to give thanks for their blessings, along with holding feasts to celebrate the harvest.

Lincoln said at the time: "The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God."

Thanksgiving is also an annual Canadian holiday. Our daughter and son-in-law lived in Canada for a few years and were introduced to this custom which they brought back with them when they returned to the UK. In Canada the day is celebrated on the second Monday in October, so every year members of our family gather on the nearest Sunday. We sit down for dinner, which traditionally can consist of roasted turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, sweet corn, squashes, brussel sprouts and my favourite – Pumpkin Pie – possibly not the most eye catching of desserts but delicious nonetheless.

Part of the tradition during the Thanksgiving meal is for each person to tell one specific reason why they're thankful to God that year.

In our normal Sunday morning service we have a time for intercessions, or prayer, when we pray on behalf of others. And it seems to me that there is little time put aside in the service for saying ‘thank you’ to God for all the good things in our lives. The service of Morning Prayer does contain a prayer with the words: “we worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory, when we assemble and meet together to render thanks for the great benefits that we have received at his hands...”

I’m obviously writing here as a Christian, but I have to say, as human beings we all need to say ‘thank you’ a bit more often than we do; and we also need to recognise how fortunate we are at times. We regularly watch television reports showing the starving, refugees, the homeless, those affected by conflict - and do we ever stop for a moment to think how lucky we are and be thankful? So yes, it is the tradition at this time to say thank you to God for an abundant Harvest, but may I commend to you the idea of saying ‘thank you’ to those who do you good?

On the 9 October 2016 at our 9.30am service, we will be holding our Harvest Festival at St John’s, when we celebrate the harvest and all the other blessings of the past year.

In the USA the poor are often provided with food at Thanksgiving time. Similarly, the goods donated at our Harvest Festival will be passed on to the Stonepillow project in Chichester. On the day please bring along tins and packets of food and/or toiletries which can be used at the various feeding centres.  You can discover more about Stonepillow by visiting www.stonepillow.org.uk.  There is also the Diocese of Chichester Harvest appeal which is directed at enabling people in West Africa to rebuild their communities following the Ebola outbreak. So if you would like to offer some cash, information on the Diocesan appeal may be found at www.chichester.anglican.org

We will have a visiting speaker at our Harvest Service – Rosie Knott from the Christian Youth Enterprises Sailing Centre at Cobnor. Please come along.

Martin Brown, Reader at St John the Baptist Church, Westbourne


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