Thanksgiving in a time of stress
"When your parents do something for you, remember to say 'Thank you,'" the Rev. Dr. John Schule told the children before sending them off to Sunday school - himself remembering to thank them for coming to church.
Dr. Schule chose as his text that morning the story of the ten lepers whom Jesus healed. Only one of them returned to say thank you.
It wasn't yet Thanksgiving Day or even Thanksgiving week, but Dr. Schule, a retired minister who lives in Edgartown and was filling in at the West Tisbury Congregational Church, had Thanksgiving on his mind. Like Dr. Schule, many religious leaders across Martha's Vineyard are this fall dealing with parishioners who are anxious about the future and feel there is little to be thankful for. Pastors will seize the opportunity this season to put things in perspective.
Photo by Lynn Christoffers
"Gratitude has to be cultivated," Dr. Schule told the West Tisbury congregation on Nov. 16. "We are all long on complaints and short on thanksgiving." He read an extensive list of things to be thankful for - some serious and eternal, some trivial and humorous - punctuating the list from time to time with the first line of the old Thanksgiving hymn, "Now thank we all our God."
The Rev. Roger Spinney will bring a similar message to the Baptist congregations he leads in Vineyard Haven and Aquinnah. Mr. Spinney told The Martha's Vineyard Times in a telephone interview that he plans to preach on Thanksgiving in a time of trials and tribulations. His text will be, "You will also thank the Father, who has made you able to share the light, which is what God's people inherit." The passage (Colossians 1:1-12) suggests that he will ask the congregation to focus on the big picture rather than the troubles of the moment.
The Rev. Dr. Susan Heafield, one of two ministers of the Methodist cooperative parish, will suggest ways to extend the idea of Thanksgiving beyond the day itself. Her text (2 Corinthians 9) is more about giving than saying thank you: "God loves a cheerful giver."
"Thanksgiving is not a religious holiday," she told The Martha's Vineyard Times, "but it touches people in a way that is theological." The typical Thanksgiving activities - such as counting one's blessings and feeding the less fortunate - are just as appropriate all year-round as on a vacation day in November.
Dr. Heafield will also tell her congregations to be especially sensitive to those who find the holiday season painful. "Thanksgiving is not just a time to praise God," she said, "but also a time to obey the commandment to love one another. Thanksgiving and Christmas often bring out sadness in those who are alone at a time of traditional family activities."
Dr. Schule's concluding slogan will be echoed this week all over Martha's Vineyard: "Gratitude is the best attitude."