Monday, November 28, 2022
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Thanksgiving lives at the heart of community

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In a post-pandemic world, all blessings are a little bit sweeter than before, and all gatherings where blessings are acknowledged, songs are lifted high and a top-notch meal is shared with others amidst laughter and prayer should be celebrated and savored.

This is what happened at Third Congregational Church on Miner Street in Middletown on Nov. 20. Eight 20-pound turkeys were donated by the deacons and others. Folks signed up to bring side dishes and desserts. A decorating committee came together to create an autumn setting of beauty and abundance.

Of course, as a long-time pastor for various Congregational churches, I think that there is nothing more beautiful than a decorated church friendship hall, with colors, material, flowers and ribbons, some brand new, some which have been used for generations. Volunteers worked all weekend to create this event. Folks showed up at 4 a.m. to start the roasting process. People organized, shopped, served, shepherded guests to their tables and food stations, then stayed to clean up and send leftovers to those who are homebound and to the local soup kitchen.

I am the interim pastor for this church. I know that someday soon I will be leaving them, hopefully in the hands of a perfectly matched “settled” pastor. It is with great care and more than a little weepiness that I look out and see the wonders of a renewed, refreshed and unified congregation that has suffered its share of pandemic woes, divisions, lockdown blues and discouraging news of COVID numbers and statistics.

But today was sheer joy. Joy at seeing returning members with their children. Joy at seeing old and young, single and married, loners and fast friends, those who just walked off the street to see what’s going on, gathered in one cheery space to give thanks to God for having made it through the storm, having lived to see another Thanksgiving, having escaped many “dangers, toils and snares” in recent months and years.

I have come to believe that the specifics of a religion are never as important as the practice of the tenets of the faith. That is, our beliefs wax and wane but our commitment to love and service, forgiveness and sharing, are much more relevant, much more compelling, than how many angels can fit on the head of a pin (a popular old theological argument), or what the Trinity is really about (I’ve got my own theories, believe me).

What is important now, and in our future as a nation and a world is basically this: How

do we take care of each other? Regardless of our religion, race, faith tradition, sexual orientation, economics and yes, even belief specifics, how are we going to feed each other, protect each other, survive, thrive and live to tell the stories?

I hope you can find some of these answers in your local house of worship. There is so much love, joy, peace and hope to be found there. Those ideals, by the way, are the candles of Advent, which incidentally, starts in the Christian church next Sunday.

But before then, take some time to look around, grab a hand, lift your voices in praise and gratitude for all the things we do enjoy. There will be plenty of time to complain and form sides on all kinds of issues in the future. This Turkey Day, let’s all be friends. Let our humanity run the show. Can you find it somewhere in community? Come. See. Taste the beauty and the bounty. Just for a day, a week, maybe longer.

The Rev. Julie G. Olmsted is interim minister/life coach at Third Congregational Church in Middletown.

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