As we approach Thanksgiving Weekend I would like to invite you to our Celebration of Thanksgiving on the 11th of October when we will be celebrating God’s blessings in our personal lives as well as in the life of our community of St John’s.
I confess that I have mixed emotions each year as this special holiday approaches. There are feelings of delight in the gifts of the land – in the beautiful, fresh squash and apples and potatoes and carrots that are graciously given by God and brought in by farmers and workers. There is joy in those familiar hymns that announce our Creator’s blessing:
For the fruits of all creation, thanks be to God; for the gifts to every nation, thanks be to God; for the ploughing, sowing, reaping, silent growth while we are sleeping, future’s needs in earth’s safe-keeping, thanks be to God.
On the other hand, however, there are feelings of regret over the world’s indifference to the land and to the rhythm of the seasons. The smell and feel of rich soil is for most of us only a distant memory. The produce in our grocery stores flies across continents and time zones in defiance of the earth’s rhythms. Our turkeys are never a family bird, tended and fed and then brought to table as an answer to careful and loving labour. In other words our delight in the harvest is often, today, merely delight at a distance.
I don’t highlight these mixed emotions, these tensions, in order to find a quick fix, but simply to remind us how things are. And, perhaps, to ignite a longing for a simpler way of life that would bring us, body and soul, closer to God’s creation – recognizing, as Norman Wirzba has said, that “the more we appreciate and engage creation in its depth and variety, the greater, and the more spontaneous and natural, will be our gratitude and praise.”
As those who walk in the way of the ancient Hebrew people, and who walk in the way of the risen Christ, Thanksgiving pushes our thinking beyond creation and harvest. It moves us, through a general attitude of thankfulness, to giving. The hymn-writer, again, gets it right:
In the just reward of labour, God’s will is done; in the help we give our neighbour, God’s will is done; in our world-wide task of caring for the hungry and despairing, in the harvests we are sharing, God’s will be done.
The many ways we, here at St John’s, have been working to see God’s will be done have been at times scary and perhaps hard as well as exciting, inspiring and enriching. Just to remind you of some of the work we have undertaken since last December I thought it would be good to make a list. First and foremost on our list was to get our finances back on track, then to look at our endeavours at outreach…after looking at some of the programs we are already involved with like; Out of the Cold, St George’s Breakfast Program, Project Share, the Soup Truck, PWRDF, Bethlehem Housing, Water Walkers United, Niagara Support Services, and the Water Project we thought about how we could increase our visibility in the community thus came the birth of our Community BBQ. And what a time we had! It was a time of opening our minds, hearts, and arms as well as our doors to anyone who wished to come to join us. The Spirit is certainly alive and well in our midst and I am sure was felt by everyone at our first annual BBQ!!! The kids had a blast, the adults had as much fun, I am sure, and the people who came out to volunteer, it seemed to me, had the most fun of all. Thanks be to God for everyone who participated in ANY way. Like I said you are all stars!
We have been so blessed here at St John’s. We have amazing wardens in Karen James, Lil Booth, Gary Jenkinson and Pat Olson, we have Kim Martignago who keeps the office running, we have a very supportive Parish Council, we have incredible volunteers who help with everything from worship, working with and teaching our children, Val and our Choir who make a joyful noise unto the Lord, greeters, sides people, people who do flowers, cleaning, catering to funeral receptions, planning events, then working at those events, finances, making calls, changing the sign and all you who worship with us and support our community in many other ways to numerous to mention. Many hands make light work. If you are interested in learning more about volunteer opportunities just give us a call. All are welcome! It is in giving that we receive.
Enclosed with this Thanksgiving letter, you will find a special offering envelope. As you give something extra this season, your gift will not only support our parish but will also support the work of St. John’s in the wider community as we proclaim God’s loving action in the world. Giving is not just a matter of finances; it is also a spiritual matter. Giving is an act of thanksgiving to God for the many blessings we each can name in our own lives, and in those blessings we celebrate together as the community of St John’s.
Yours in Christ
P.S. If you have had the opportunity to see our refreshed Russell Room please take a peek. A huge thank you to the donors who made it all possible.