Across the United States this Thanksgiving, many will gather with friends and family around tables laden with turkey and cranberry sauce and many other favorite foods of their cultures and traditions. In the midst of these of celebrations, we must admit that many people do not have this kind of “abundant” experience. The pictures of tables overflowing with food have no connection to several of them in their context. For many of our sisters and brothers, the impact of food scarcity is their daily struggle. The Ministry with the Poor website provides resources to help us learn more about the issues surrounding food scarcity and poverty in the United States. (See www.ministrywith.org for more information.)
How do we pray on this day?
Janjay Innis is a young adult US-2 missionary serving with the Tacoma Community House, Tacoma, Wash. Her missionary webpage shares that, “Tacoma Community House serves a diverse county of some 900,000 persons; some 23 percent are people of color, 10 percent are born outside the U.S., and 14 percent speak a language other than English at home.
Janjay helps the agency to make connections between social service and social change by treating those they serve as partners in advocating for the issues that affect them. She also helps to develop partnerships with area churches.” Janjay’s understanding of “Thanksgiving Day” has been uniquely shaped through her ministry with the people of Tacoma Community House.
Janjay offers the prayer litany, “This Thanksgiving,” for us to pray with her and the people with whom she engages in her ministry. Consider using the prayer as the prayer of the day for Thanksgiving services. While written for the U.S. context of Thanksgiving Day, the prayer only needs minimal adaption to be prayed throughout the world on any day. If Thanksgiving Day is not appropriate for your context, simply change the word “Thanksgiving” to “day” and adapt the remaining text as needed. This adaption will also be appropriate if you find this prayer would be best at a time other than Thanksgiving or the Sundays before and after Thanksgiving Day.
by Janjay Innis
One: Every Thanksgiving, we gather out of gratitude, but lured by the lifestyle of consumerism we are prone to express gratitude for the possession of material things. In this, we fail to see the blessing in the assurance that come what may, God is with us.
All: God of bounty, this Thanksgiving help us realize that we have enough and lead us to advocate for those who have yet to make this claim.
One: Every Thanksgiving, we gather with the ones we love. Having the freedom to choose what we want to do and where we want to go because of access to opportunity, we seldom think of the lengths to which our neighbors must go for such liberties. Our neighbors are crossing borders in search of lives free from war, violence and economic hard times. Our neighbors are hungry, homeless and bound by lives consumed by addiction.
All: God of relationship, this Thanksgiving help us build community and be the face of hospitality for those most in need of it.
One: Every thanksgiving we gather unaware of the complexity of this day we commemorate. It is one of struggle and pain, of stories stifled and untold, where the survival of a pilgrim people is uplifted and the history of the first peoples are erased. It is a pattern that painfully permeates our time even today, as countless groups of people are demonized, criminalized, penalized and marginalized at the hands of an empire.
All: God of justice, this Thanksgiving help us freely speak the hard truths of the past so that they inform our present and future witness.
One: Every Thanksgiving, we gather with the hope that there will come a day when all of God’s people, irrespective of difference, will experience the gift of abundant life. Abundant life that is peace, abundant life that is joy, abundant life where no one will want because everyone will have what they need.
All: God of promise, this Thanksgiving help us bring forth a new reality, God’s reality, where all of creation will join in song; where heaven and earth will be one, both now and in a time to come.
One: Every thanksgiving, we gather as family. Whether bound by kinship or friendship, we are blessed by the ties that bind us, touched by stories that connect us and changed by the dreams that inspire us.
All: God of love, this Thanksgiving may your love saturate us and flow from us. May your love accompany those who are lonely, find the ones who are lost and empower those who feel small. Amen.
Other options for worship:
- Consider singing “For Everyone Born” as a response to the prayer. This text by Shirley Erena Murray calls us to consider who is and who is not at “the table.” The text, set to music by Brian Mann, is found in the songbook of the same title, For Everyone Born. Another musical setting by Lori True can be found in Worship and Song published by Abingdon Press. You can find the songbook For Everyone Born at www.shop.umc.org. Simply type in the title in the search bar.
By Rev. Debi Tyree, Global Praise