November 2021 - Message From The Pastor:
Thanksgiving is our holiday. By that I mean, Congregationalists are the direct theological and ecclesiastical descendants of the Puritans who settled in New England in the 1600s. Some members of First Congregational Church of Walpole, UCC trace their family line back to those first New England Puritans. For a long time, Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday. Thanksgiving is America’s only official religious holiday, and it transcends religious differences. Thanksgiving is built for diversity. I also love that it is somewhat resistant to commercialism. There are cultural traditions of the meal, like turkey and cranberries. Cherished family dishes complete holiday tables across the country.
Our Thanksgiving myth describes pilgrims and indigenous people coming together after the harvest to share a meal and give thanks to their Creator. When I say “myth,” I do not mean that it is untrue, just not literally true. I Googled a definition, calling myth: “a traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining some natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events.” I think that fits well. The myth ignores the fact that indigenous peoples were not generally thankful for the arrival and eventual dominance of white Europeans.
Even so, I do cherish the holiday. There are historical and mythic foundations we can still embrace. It is literally true that forty-five of the 102 passengers on the Mayflower died during their first winter in New England. Since the beginning of the COVID 19 pandemic, over 700,000 Americans have died so far. Last year, many of us scaled back our Thanksgiving celebrations out of an abundance of caution. This year, with vaccines and boosters, a lot of us feel more comfortable gathering with family and friends to celebrate and give thanks that we have made it this far.
Clearly, we are not out of the woods, but we have reason to be thankful. We have enough to eat and, roofs over our heads. As we ask God’s blessing on our Thanksgiving dinner, let’s pray for the conviction and creativity to increase the peace and justice in the world and our corner of it and beyond. As always, we are all in this together.
- In Christ, Richard Malmberg