This Thursday is Thanksgiving Day. One day in which we like those early Pilgrims set aside time in our busy schedules to give thanks to God.
Most of us associate the holiday with happy Pilgrims and Indians sitting down to a big feast. And that did happen – once.
This story doesn’t have quite the same fuzzy feelings associated with it as the one where the Indians and Pilgrims are all sitting down together at the big feast. But we need to learn our true history so it won’t ever be repeated. Next Thanksgiving, when you gather with your loved ones to Thank God for all your blessings, think about those people who only wanted to live their lives and raise their families. They, also took time out to say “thank you” to Creator for all their blessings.
Religious zealots called Puritans began arriving by the boat load in 1620, after hearing about the riches in the northeast. Finding no fences around the land, they considered it to be in the public domain. Joined by other British settlers, they seized land, capturing strong young natives for slaves and killing the rest.
In 1637 near present day Groton, Connecticut, over 700 men, women and children of the Pequot Tribe had gathered for their annual Green Corn Festival which is our Thanksgiving celebration. In the predawn hours the sleeping Indians were surrounded by English and Dutch mercenaries who ordered them to come outside. Those who came out were shot or clubbed to death while the terrified women and children who huddled inside the longhouse were burned alive. The next day the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony declared “A Day Of Thanksgiving” because 700 unarmed men, women and children had been murdered.
Cheered by their “victory”, the brave colonists and their Indian allies attacked village after village. Women and children over 14 were sold into slavery while the rest were murdered. Boats loaded with as many as 500 slaves regularly left the ports of New England. Bounties were paid for Indian scalps to encourage as many deaths as possible.
Following an especially successful raid against the Pequot in what is now Stamford, Connecticut, the churches announced a second day of “thanksgiving” to celebrate victory over the heathen savages. During the feasting, the hacked off heads of Natives were kicked through the streets like soccer balls. Even the friendly Wampanoag did not escape the madness. Their chief was beheaded, and his head impaled on a pole in Plymouth, Massachusetts — where it remained on display for 24 years.
The killings became more and more frenzied, with days of thanksgiving feasts being held after each successful massacre.
George Washington finally suggested that only one day of Thanksgiving per year be set aside instead of celebrating each and every massacre.
Later, in 1863, Abraham Lincoln decreed Thanksgiving Day to be a legal national holiday, a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens”, to be celebrated on the last Thursday in November.
The Puritans (Pilgrims) were not just simple religious conservatives persecuted by the King and the Church of England for their unorthodox beliefs. Puritans and the Pilgrims saw themselves as the “Chosen Elect” mentioned in the book of Revelation. They believed in the imminent occurrence of Armageddon and hoped to establish here in the new world the “Kingdom of God” foretold in the book of Revelation.
So they came to America not just in one ship (the Mayflower) but in a hundred others as well, with every intention of taking the land away from its native people to build their prophesied “Holy Kingdom.”*
Not at all like the stories we have been told for as long as we can remember.
But regardless of the reason for the celebration of ‘Thanksgiving Day’, through the years we have continued the tradition of gathering with family and loved ones, celebrated with a big meal, and remembered that all this bounty comes from the Creator.
Here at In The Garden we have many things to be grateful for:
- This space where we gather each week
- The community that we have established in the last 7 years
- Those members of the Core Team who donate their Sundays to be a part of the community
- Those volunteers who provide the hot, nutritious meals for us each week
- The Ohio State University Muslim Student Association who fasts for one day in order to provide sack lunches
- The love and concern for each other we feel as a part of the community
- The diversity of faith communities who feel called to do this much needed ministry.
If we think about our own lives, we have many things to be thankful for, starting with our family and friends.
What are you thankful for?
(Pause of members of community to tell what they are thankful for)
You will find the words to the hymn We Gather Together at your tables. Let’s sing this together.
- We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known.
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.
Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;
So from the beginning the fight we were winning;
Thou, Lord, were at our side, all glory be Thine!
We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant,
And pray that Thou still our Defender will be.
Let Thy congregation escape tribulation;
Thy Name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!
Let us pray:
Our Father in Heaven, We give thanks 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 the other blessings in our lives. As we partake of this food, we pray for health and strength to carry on and try to live as You would have us live. Amen.
Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH
*Blitzer, Charles, “Age of Kings,” Great Ages of Man series, references to Puritanism, pp. 141, 144 & 145-46. Also see Jennings, Francis, The Invasion of America, references to Puritan human motives, pp. 4-6, 43- 44 and 53.