Nov 25, 2015

Top 10 Reasons to Attend the Community Thanksgiving Service

Interior of Old Ship Church in Hingham, MA
It's that time of the year. The time when people of faith across all denominations "gather together to ask the Lord's blessing" by holding community Thanksgiving services. There are several reasons these are held in towns across America: it's a tradition, ie. we've always had one; lazy local ministers can get out of holding their own services; and it's a time when people of all faiths can come together at a place other than the soccer field on Sunday morning.

Here in Hingham, I participate in a Thanksgiving Eve service at Old Ship Church, the country's only remaining 17th century Puritan meeting house and current Unitarian house of worship. Then on Thanksgiving Day at 9:00 am we celebrate the Great Thanksgiving at St. John's -- something that likely makes Puritans roll over in their graves since they fled to America to get away from the Church of England.

If the following list sounds familiar, it's an excerpt from my book Father Tim's Church Survival Guide (Morehouse, 2015). If it doesn't ring a bell, buy the book. But only if your faith comes with a major dose of humor.

Top 10 Reasons to Attend the Community Thanksgiving Service

Each November all the local clergy and a disproportionately small number of townspeople gather for the Interfaith Community Thanksgiving Service at the local Congregational church. It’s nice to gather, certainly, and I appreciate knowing all the local clergy. But at a completely different level, there are many good (well, 10) reasons to attend such services. Thus, I offer you my:

Top Ten Reasons to Attend the Community Thanksgiving Service

1. When else would you get to hold a bulletin emblazoned with cornucopia clip-art?

2. To prove the superior vesture of Episcopalians (or, at what point does an abundance of polyester cassock-albs become a fire hazard?).

3. To get away from the in-laws for an hour while they dispute the ingredients of your late grandmother’s stuffing recipe.

4. To worship God in lowest common denominator form (along with several references to Mother Earth).

5. To pray that parishioners from other churches will see the light and join your congregation.

6. To enjoy seeing the area clergy being paraded around in front of the congregation like a police line-up (“Hey, you, number two Methodist; stand next to that Presbyterian and sing ‘Eagles’ Wings’”).

7. To take bets on how many times the hosting cleric will say the word “welcome.”

8. To witness hearing all the participating clergy being given a line or two (in the name of inclusion) so it feels like a third grade play.

9. Since the rest of your family refuses to go, it makes for a contemplative time.

10. To enjoy the post-service store-bought brownies and punch reception (a result of several unnamed Protestant denominations for whom wine is anathema).

As an Episcopalian I look forward to celebrating Thanksgiving with The Great Thanksgiving. All the rest is just icing on the turkey. 

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