“…It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union…”
Thanksgiving Proclamation By President Abraham Lincoln, October 3, 1863 Anthony B. Pinn, Lectionary Team Cultural Resource Commentator, shared some timeless thoughts and appreciations about Thanksgiving from 2009 that are worthy of appreciation and true for any year. Pinn’s Thoughts & Considerations For Christians, Thanksgiving is not shorthand for the story of a shared meal between Europeans and Native
Americas, reenacted November of each year, according to Pinn. Rather, there is a depth to the term and its meaning that cuts across the centuries and speaks to humanity’s basic connection to God and this changing world. Thanksgiving provides the basic posture of humans toward the Divine. That is to say, thanksgiving involves celebration of the ultimate logic of life made possible through the workings of a God concerned with justice. It is not shortsighted; it is not concerned only with the present moment but, instead, thanksgiving allows recognition of the ultimate value of what is to come. It is a tenacious hold on the possibility of goodness and justice in spite of current circumstances…
…The African American Christian tradition in general terms entails this thanksgiving even in the face of socio-economic, political and cultural oppression. Through its rituals, teachings, and the best of its practices, African American Christianity offers a way to recognize, speak about, and live out our relationship to God in ways that promote a good life… Thanksgiving Is Really about Family Pinn also shared strong feelings and thoughts on the real meaning of Thanksgiving: FAMILY. The stories of African American families gathered on Thanksgiving Day around dining room tables, kitchen tables, on floors, grass and even dirt are legendary. Who among us can’t roll off the list of what was on the table on Thanksgiving? Did your table contain turkey or was it ham or both with chicken thrown in for good measure? Were there candied yams, macaroni and cheese, sweet potato pie, German chocolate cake, potato salad, dressing with cranberry sauce and even more vegetables? Yes, we can all go on about the food. However, much more important than the food, Thanksgiving was the time when everyone tried to come together. Some would drive home and others would fly home. It was about family being together. And unlike Easter, no new clothes were required. Unlike Christmas, you did not have to bring a gift. If dinner was potluck, you had to make a contribution, and that was what made the time great, too. So many gave of themselves and shared their culinary talents. Thanksgiving was also one of those rare times that people actually sat down and talked. You heard stories, some over and over each year and some brand new, that gave you information about your family that you appreciated having later in life. Children heard the stories and participated in the day’s festivities, too. If a child could play an instrument, they were asked to do so right on the spot. If they could recite the Bible or a famous oration, this was the time to have them do it. Recipes were handed down and so much was learned about cooking on Thanksgiving. But Thanksgiving was not only about one’s personal family, it was about all the families that were part of the human family.
This is why African American churches, small and large, prepared bags and boxes for families that did not have enough to eat; everyone was supposed to dine well on Thanksgiving. Pinn added that Even today, this tradition still continues and, now, some churches have elaborate lists that are handed out to church members long before Thanksgiving Day, to make sure that families within and not within the church receive bountifully on Thanksgiving. As the country endures one of its most difficult economic periods, one only hopes that this spirit of embrace of all families spreads throughout the year. Each year is a year to count our blessings for life and all that we enjoy each and everyday. May we not take any day for granted and as we live and have opportunities to serve, may we never refuse or turn our backs on the chance to be of service to our fellow man and women in this world. The Reverend Martha Simmons, President and Publisher of The African American Pulpit Journal, commissioned world-renowned scholars to assist in the creation of The African American Lectionary. The Lectionary was launched in December 2007. The African American Lectionary is a resource tool that not only highlights the African American ecclesial traditions and moments that creatively express the joy, freedom, and the challenges of being both African American and Christian (e.g., Watch Night, African Heritage Sunday, Usher’s Day, and Women’s Day), but also recognizes days on the liturgical calendar that are celebrated across a variety of ecclesial traditions (e.g., Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost).