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We all come together in thanks

Written by Mike Siroky. Posted in Uncategorized

Published on November 22, 2011 with No Comments

Thanksgiving is truly an American holiday, but it has its foundation in many religions.

It symbolizes many things, not the least of which is the annual beginning of the end of the year retrospectives and celebrations.

Even in tumultuous times, Americans the world over will stop and reflect, celebrate family and friends and begin the season of renewal, which lasts through the ultimate renewal of the coming new year.

We all begin to reach out to one another. There are community feasts, tables laden with all sorts of treats as we gather.

It is not surprising the official national holiday began in a most-troubled time, when President Abraham Lincoln chose the middle of the Civil War to issue one his many unification proclamations.

Thanksgiving or Thanksgiving Day, is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November. Lincoln made this announcement in 1863, proclaiming a first national day of thanksgiving to be celebrated on the last Thursday in November as a federal holiday in the U.S

We at The Chronicle put a simple thought to an array of local religious leaders: Why do we celebrate Thanksgiving

Here are their responses:

Father James Meade is the pastor at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Chesterton.

He stresses Thanksgiving is a secular holiday and not a religious one.

“There was an early resistance to fixed Feast Days in all religions,” he points out.

Pilgrims believed we should have Days of Humiliation and Days of Happiness.”

That idea centers around events as opposed to planned calendar days. I times are tough, we should ask for guidance, repent together and admit our frailties; if there is a good harvest, by comparison, then we can celebrate.

Our first president, George Washington, agreed to that mantra.

“Thomas Jefferson, as president, wanted no national holiday, feeling religion was a matter for the states,” said Meade.

 “I’d have to agree, though, that there is something to gathering and reaching out to those less-fortunate in times of unemployment and underemployment such as we have now and to pledge to work to help everyone.”

For more information about St. Patrick Catholic Church, call 219-926-1282.

The Rabbi at Temple Israel is Stanley Halpern

Rabbi Halpern said, “An original Biblical thanksgiving holiday is the Sukkot, for the harvest.”

It is one of the three biblically mandated festivals, It is a seven-day celebration

Sukkot is agricultural in origin. This is evident from the biblical name “The Feast of Ingathering, It was a thanksgiving for the fruit harvest. Coming as it did at the completion of the harvest, Sukkot is regarded as a general thanksgiving for the bounty of nature in the year that had passed.

“So there’s always been, within the Jewish tradition, giving thanks, Rabbi Halpern said. “When President Lincoln set a time for an official Thanksgiving, it was not unusual for us, We try to remember to thank God at all times.

“What is interesting in the popular culture is that the pilgrims, if they had only themselves, would have died a hideous death.

“It is only that the Native Americans taught them and brought food for them to survive.

“The lesson has always been not to focus on just yourself but sharing. We depend on each other.

“When we give a simple blessing for the bread, does God care? Do we need to curry the favor of the Devine?

“But think of all the people who get us the bread, the growers, the bakers, the truck drivers, the stores . . .  we depend on so many for just as simple thing as a piece of bread.

“So their well-being, their health, can’t be thanked enough.”

For more information on Temple Beth Israel, call 219-938-5232.

Ron Cameron is the Indiana president of the Church of Latter Day Saints.

“The way we look at it, we need to give thanks to the Heavenly Father for all he has given us every day.

“If we thanked him for every breath we take, we still could not thank him enough.

“While one designated day to give thanks is not sufficient, it is still a good idea for people to gather and give thanks.”

Marv Evans, director of Church public affairs in Chicago, says there’s a reason why Mormons reach out to others at this time and throughout the year.

“We try as individuals, as families and as communities to do what Christ did when He was on the earth - that is, to serve and lift the lives of others.”

For more information on the Valparaiso Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, call 219-464-4411.

At Trinity Lutheran Church in Hobart, the pastor is Gary Nagy.

As Christians, we thank God every day,” Pastor Nagy said.

“But we do celebrate Thanksgiving on the last Thursday in November because it’s a proclamation of the President of the United States.

“It used to be harder to get that proclamation. But now it’s available in advance and I can research it and find the parts I want to cite each year.

“It is pertinent to our beliefs.

“This is the day we take to give thanks to His greatness of blessings to the United States

 “That’s what we focus on. I read recently where 84 percent of Americans will eat turkey on Thanksgiving and three percent will attend church that day. The Lord does say he will bless the entire place for the sake of those in it who believe and worship.”

The greatness of America comes to those who know who to thank.

“We will stress that in our services Saturday and Sunday.”

For more information on Trinity Lutheran in Hobart, call 219-942-2589.

The Rev. Dr. Jacob C. Williams, Jr., is senior pastor at Valparaiso’s First United Methodist Church.

“We all need people,” Rev. Williams said. “We are all spiritual beings. No matter what religion or faith, no matter who you pray to, Christian or not, we are all basically spiritual beings.

“Our spiritual reality transcends religion.

“Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on the past, present and future for me.

“It’s a time to say ‘Thank you.’ It’s a time to pause in our spiritual journey.

“So say, “Thank you, at least on Thanksgiving, for what God has done for us.

“In turn, is time to think what we can do for other people.

“It’s not like Christmas time, when we say thanks for the Christ child, no matter who we praise. Thanksgiving is a time to say ‘Thank you’ to God for all that God has done for us. And to think what we can do for others.”

Rev. Williams has a special tradition at Thanksgiving.

“Inevitably, wherever I am, they ask me to say the prayer,” he said.

“I use Thanksgiving to reflect to the people who are not around the table this year, but who used to be there.

“I call out the names of the people I miss. I ask people around the table to call out the names if the people they used to share Thanksgiving with. They are with us always.”

For more information on Valparaiso’s First United Methodist Church, call 219-465-1661.

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About Mike Siroky

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All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed in the above excellent column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Mike Siroky is a writer and editor. He is a native of Northwest Indiana. He has worked in media from coast to coast. To contact Mike, email mikel@the chronicleNWI.com

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