Developed by Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director, this can be used at the beginning of Thanksgiving Dinner
In September 1620, a small ship called the Mayflower set sail from Plymouth, England. The passengers, most of them Puritans who had been persecuted for their religious beliefs, spent 66 days in the hold of the ship. After sailing for more than two months, the Mayflower finally reached land on Cape Cod. They arrived in the new world on November 21. One month later, all 102 passengers set foot on land and began to establish the colony of Plymouth, Massachusetts. The Pilgrims, as these people came to be called, had borrowed money from a group of English merchants to cross the Atlantic Ocean and planned to start a settlement in the Virginia Colony in America. During the long voyage, storms blew their crowded little vessel off course.
Most of the Pilgrims had suffered terribly from the long voyage. They immediately began to build shelters, but soon they were overcome by a general sickness. Through the course of the winter 46 died, nearly half their original number. Some who became ill on the voyage and who were too sick to be moved stayed on the Mayflower, which was anchored in Plymouth Harbor for the winter.
The following spring, friendly Indians helped the settlers to plant corn, and in the autumn, the first crop was harvested. Governor William Bradford proclaimed three days of prayer and thanksgiving. The Pilgrims gave a huge feast and invited the Indian Chief, Massosoit, and 90 of his people.
The custom of observing a special harvest thanksgiving day spread throughout the other colonies in the following years. After the American Revolution, the various states continued the custom, each one naming it's own day for giving thanks. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the first national Thanksgiving Day on the last Thursday in November. The present date, the fourth Thursday of November, was established by Congress in 1941, and signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt.
Thanksgiving has become a day when turkey is eaten (and one is pardoned by the president beforehand), and football games are played. Parades display big balloons and Santa Claus officially comes into New York City, marking the start of the Christmas season. It is a day when Americans overindulge, spending important time with family and friends. But most of all, in the midst of our busy lives and a hectic world, we pause, to give thanks to our creator, for the blessings bestowed on us each and every day.
Let us pray:
We give thanks, our Father in heaven,
For the pleasure of gathering together for this occasion.
We give thanks for this food prepared by loving hands.
We give thanks for life, the freedom to enjoy it all, and all other blessings.
As we celebrate being with friends and family, let us remember those who are lonely.
As we share out of our abundance, let us remember those who are without.
As we gather in our homes, let us remember the homeless.
As we take time off from work, let us remember the jobless.
We are thankful for our health, let us remember those who are ill.
As we celebrate peace, let us remember those who are at war.
We are thankful for those present around us, let us remember those who are absent.
As we partake of this food, let us remember those who have none.
On this day and always, we pray for health and strength to carry on and try to live as You would have us. This we ask in the name of Christ, Our Heavenly Father.
(Prayer adapted from material by Harry Jewell and Phil Bramley)
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