Thursday, 17 October 2019

General Thanksgiving

Giving thanks for all the good things we have received by God’s grace must be a central part of Christian worship. It is very right and proper, therefor, that the old Book of Common Prayer of 1662 included the prayer entitled the General Thanksgiving, written by Bishop Edward Reynolds of Norwich. This prayer has been included in every subsequent edition, including that for the Church of Ireland of 2004 (page 99). A modern language version was included in the Church of Ireland Alternative Prayer Book of 1984 (page 91), but sadly not in the 2004 prayer book, nor the new services of Morning and Evening Prayer for use on Sundays.

Traditional language prayers will probably be forgotten in the course of time as we use traditional language less and less in worship. What a pity it would be to lose this beautiful and much loved prayer.

We have imported the American Halloween but not Thanksgiving, which is also a pity. The American Thanksgiving is a lovely festival. It is a time for families and friends to gather together, to feast and to celebrate all that was good in the previous year, with traditional foods like turkey with cranberry sauce, sweet corn, squash and green bean casserole, and sweet pies – a bit like Christmas for us. Although now a secular festival, celebrated by people of all faiths and none, its origin lies in Christian communities giving thanks to God for all his blessings. Even today it is a tradition in many American families to begin the Thanksgiving dinner with a grace, and for each person at the table to tell one special reason they give thanks to God this year. In the United States Thanksgiving is a national holiday, observed on the 4th Thursday in November – the 28th November in 2019 - while in Canada it is observed on the 2nd Monday of October.

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