I recall my first Thanksgiving in this country as a student at Columbia Bible College, in Columbia, South Carolina. Having never lived outside of my home in India, everything in this place was new and strange. My roommate and fellow students were going home and the school was to be closed down for Thanksgiving. Quite simply, I didn’t understand what the fuss was all about. However, on the day before, as the last of the students left the dormitory, and the cafeteria was closed, it dawned on me that I was going to be ‘home alone’. I had no money, no car, and no place to go. Sitting in my room, as I was thinking about how to survive the next few days without food, the telephone rang in the hallway of the dorm. The voice on the other end of the line asked to speak to Mr. Mathews, and he told me that his family was going to be my host for the next few days, and asked me to be ready to be picked up in half an hour. The next day I had my first Thanksgiving meal sitting at the table with the Davises, the beginning of a long-term relationship.
Now, as this would be my last Thanksgiving as your rector, I look back at the years of our ministry together with a heart full of gratitude. Just as the Davises took me into their family when I first came to Saint Peter’s, you received me as your rector, and together we broke bread with those who were near and those who were far. Tomorrow when we sit down for Thanksgiving meals with families and friends, as members of St. Peter’s, I want us to be happy to know that our pantry made it possible for many families to have their own thanksgiving meals.
The tradition of setting apart a day for the celebration of Thanksgiving goes back to a meal the early settlers shared with their host community of native people in 1621. Knowing about our humble origin and our dependence on the host community for our survival is ever more important these days when as a country, we are suffering from a collective amnesia. In this context, Saint Peter’s work with Cristosal in Central America is extremely important. We are at the cutting edge of mission and ministry to the migrants, asylum seekers, and displaced people. Thanksgiving is a joyful celebration in memory of how we treated and were treated by ‘the other’.
May your time together around the table tomorrow be full of love, laughter, and gratitude!