I’ve been to my share of church-wide Thanksgiving celebrations. None of them are on Thanksgiving, few were even close to Thanksgiving. We talk about the church becoming our new family…what better group of people to share a day like Thanksgiving (or Christmas) with than church family members. I think family traditions are important. I vividly remember the Thanksgiving dinners at Grandmama’s and Grandpa’s, with the mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, and way too much turkey. I don’t necessarily think the church should discourage such traditions and memories. I do think, however, that churches could encourage all of us to expand our definitions of family and perhaps create new traditions with the family we share in the body of Christ. I have only recently begun to develop some strong ideas about the church’s role in the holiday season, and the church as our family.
Couple this with my continual dreaming about a new church reaching a new generation in Evansville, and here’s what I’ve come up with so far: a church-wide celebration of Thanksgiving. Everyone comes together on Thanksgiving, bringing one or two favorite dishes, which can become regular staples at the dinners. After sharing the dinner, it would be great to have a worship service focusing on thanking God for all He has done for us. I even think an open mic would be appropriate so people could share with the rest of the family.
After dinner and the service (or before, depending on the time), the football games would be on, so people could watch them together. I think even having a “Turkey Bowl” flag (or touch) football game later that evening could be a fun, community-building tradition. I think it is important for churches to help create memories the community can share – that helps encourage the community to stay together and grow closer to each other. Shared memories encourage shared lives.
If people have commitments with their extended families, they would be more than welcome to invite them to the church Thanksgiving meal, sharing their traditions with the expanded church family. Of course, there would be no pressure to join such a celebration. If a family chooses to celebrate their own Thanksgiving with their own traditions, I think that should be accepted. No pressure should be placed on anyone to attend a gathering such as this – especially when it involves going out of town to visit family members. In an area near a college, however, there will be many people too far away from home and family to return home for a Thanksgiving weekend. To them, the church truly would become their extended family.
I was excited yesterday (no, not just because of the pumpkin pie) because I saw a little of this dream expressed by someone else. We had our Thanksgiving dinner with around 40 other people from our church. Amazingly enough, all of us were “transplants,” with no extended family in the area. The church, in essence, was helping us realize that the Christian family is far more than our biological heritage. It’s our spiritual heritage as well. We became a little more of a community yesterday.
Now we just have to work on the Turkey Bowl. I heard that Evansville used to have the Refrigerator Bowl at one time…but that’s a different story.
Just wait till I talk about my Christmas thoughts.