Thanksgiving? A feminist plot foisted on President Lincoln by the prominent editor Sarah Hale to augment Washington’s Birthday and the Fourth of July as national holidays for American unity?
Thanksgiving? An Anglo-Protestant tradition from the Puritan Massachusetts Bay Colony as the dominant national narrative?
Thanksgiving? A Judeo-Christian community event based on the liturgies of harvest blessing and Holy Communion?
Thanksgiving? An American Christian holiday, along with Christmas and Easter, defining our religious heritage and identity?
Thanksgiving? A somewhat meaningful pause for Extreme Travel between the growing outlay of money for a macabre Halloween and the extravaganza of Christmas shopping?
Here in Belfast, Maine, nearly 7,000 of us cling to the mid-coastal Penobscot Bay. As we pause to ponder the November holiday, we probably define ourselves a little bit by all of the above.
But the local minister’s association decided this year not to have a typical ecumenical worship-and-music service for Thanksgiving. Each church, we thought, could have its own meaningful gathering, but the wider community is being invited, the Sunday before Thanksgiving, to a Season of Gratitude afternoon potluck supper at the local high school gym.
We might draw 60; we might welcome 200. We’re trying this for the first time in Belfast. We were inspired by the InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit initiative from last year. And, we decided to reach out to people who we feel are a part of our community—but we never really see, much less share a common meal.
Inspired by Abraham Lincoln’s call for national unity, not necessarily in churches, we are talking with churches who aren’t usually involved in ecumenical dialogue, community service organizations and half-way houses, Buddhist meditation groups, ethnic minority fisherman, and just plain secular people.
Humility, gratitude, shared life, stories, food and presence. That’s our goal.
Lincoln would often make a meal of a single potato or an apple. We will feast more, and the local Co Op and grocery store have made generous contributions. Lincoln also said that even in hard times, like the Civil War, the Most High God does wondrous things, and we also need to be penitential of our national perversities. That’s what he tried to do on that first annual Thanksgiving 151 years ago.
We’ll let you know how it goes.
CARE TO READ MORE?
- DUNCAN NEWCOMER is a regular contributor to readthespirit.com online magazine. He lives in Belfast, Maine, where he works as a writer, teacher, theologian and historian researching the life and values of Abraham Lincoln. You can read more of his creative columns on Lincoln at our special Lincoln Resource Page. That page includes a Season of Gratitude prayer that Duncan assembled from Lincoln’s own words.
- AND THERE’S MORE—Speaking of inclusion, Duncan often is invited to speak about his book, Desperately Seeking Mary, which ReadTheSpirit recommends as well.
- NEAR BELFAST? If you’re traveling near Belfast, Maine, and want to stop by this event—the Bangor Daily News published this public-service item.