Celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving

I invited six Canadians I know from the book A Child Laughs: Prayers of Justice and Hope that Maria Mankin and I just finished editing in the spring to share something for Canadian Thanksgiving. Some sent photographs and some sent liturgy or poetry. Feel free to use with credit this week or whenever I thanksgiving occasion comes for you.

Patti Rodgers writes: I have to say that Thanksgiving this year comes with a degree of survivor guilt. The weather here in central Canada has been spectacular while those south and west of us have been devastated by hurricane, flood and fire. How can I count my blessings while so many are suffering? So my heart, this Thanksgiving season, is with those who are too emotionally drained to count blessings. Here is a prayer:

The sun is warm upon my face.
All is well in my neighbourhood.
The tomatoes are ripe
Pumpkin and squash lay in abundance in the fields
Gifts of Zucchini and cucumbers land on my doorstep.
Even in this abundance we live at 125% of the earth’s capacity to produce
Abundance in my neighbourhood means scarcity in someone else’s
Unseasonably warm weather in my northern home means punishing drought, forest fire
and epic storms in the south.
And I feel helpless and guilty.
God, clear our minds of the clutter left by colonialism and patriarchy and domination
God, humble us to the realities we are facing and let us live extreme generosity.
Let us die to what we’re used to and live in hope of resurrection
We pray in gratitude and thanksgiving.

Nancy Arthur Best writes, I thought you might enjoy the beauty of the Gatineau Hills from a small village, Wakefield, Quebec. I started my road to ministry in 2008, when I filled in as a lay preacher for their Minister’s sabbatical. 

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Fran Ota writes this: I have a Thanksgiving liturgy taken from the Japanese Konko faith tradition – you might wonder about that – but the Konko Church in Toronto is just up the street from us and the priest is a long-time friend – they also do a Thanksgiving service, and incorporate both western and their own traditions. Ive done field placement with them here in Toronto and studied for a bit at their seminary in Okayama in Japan.

The Konko Church of Japan is an independent denomination which arose in the 19th century. It is monotheistic, and believes that Kami or God is the Parent of the Universe. When a Konko Church is planted in a different country or culture, it is the practice to incorporate some local traditions. So the Konko Thanksgiving service which falls near Canadian Thanksgiving, incorporates Canadian foods which are placed on the altar, along with traditional Japanese foods, flowers, candles.
At the end of the offerings, the ‘tamagushi’ is presented by the elders. This represents our sincere hearts and spirits offered to God. I have adapted this to our western service, and include it either in place of money offerings, or with the Community prayers. Each person in the congregation will receive a branch at the beginning of the service. The branches are tied with a thin strip of folded white paper, or white ribbon – for the purity of our hearts and spirits. Pine, spruce, cedar, or cypress may be used.
Each person will come forward to offer the branch, laying it on the table with the other gifts or decorations.
Offering liturgy:
Leader: We are called to pray in thanks, and to pray with a pure and open heart.
People: Here we offer ourselves – our committed hearts, recognising the eternal nature of spirit in our lives. Here we recognise the eternal love of God, no matter who we are, or where we are.
Leader: In this time of thanksgiving and offering, we bring our hearts to God as offerings, and we give thanks.
(People who wish come forward to lay the branches on the table)

Prayer (Together)
So we pray to the Living God, the Creator of the Universe – and pray with a committed heart. As children of the Living God, we believe divine favour is found within our own hearts – we need not look elsewhere. The Living God lives within us, and we give thanks. On this very day, we pray. Amen.

And some photographs from Fran Ota from Scaborough, Ontario.…. at Bluffer’s Park, by Lake Ontario. The bluffs are prehistoric lakebed which wash down every time it rains….the park is built of the eroded clay. It’s incredible in the fall, and we love it.

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Matthew Stevens sends this Aboriginal Canadian Eucharist for Canadian Thanksgiving which is celebrated October 8-9, 2017. The litany of remembering, the blessing of the community, the manner of sharing — all are gifts that well can be used for those who celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day (US) October 9, other Thanksgiving occasions and in worship that lifts up the suffering and the gifts of aboriginal people of many places.

He writes: Quite a few years ago while serving a First Nation community it occurred to me that the typical Thanksgiving Eucharist liturgy had very little or nothing of cultural relevance to us as Aboriginal people. Indeed, some of the more contemporary liturgies read more like a celebration how the “settlers” had overcome adversity to liberate North America from the resident “pagans”, and claim it as their “Promised Land”. There’s not a lot in this interpretation to positively engage a First Nation congregation, and so I drafted a liturgy that I used in various forms for many years thereafter. This is the Communion Prayer from that service.

This Eucharist in intended to be shared in the round, so that each person has the opportunity to serve another person. In this manner I’ve witnessed some truly beautiful exchanges between folks – sometimes between a parent and their child – sometimes between young lovers – and sometime between folks who’ve sat in the same sanctuary for years, but never previously had any more interaction than saying “good morning”. Whenever I’m facilitating the sacrament I like to mention with the explanation the importance of taking your time, looking into the eyes of the person you’re serving, articulating clearly when the elements are introduced, and remembering the person you’re speaking to really is literally your brother/sister in Christ. With many First Nation traditions the act of hospitality to strangers was extremely important, and in most customs the host was expected to break off a piece of food and personally hand it to the visitor. The visitor’s subsequent agreement to share in the following meal was regarded as a tacit illustration of their willingness to set aside any previous disagreement, and begin a new relationship of friendship. Surely these same elements are present in the symbols associated with the Eucharist.


Let’s come together before our Creator God in prayer:
Blessed are you, Gracious God, the Creator of heaven and earth. Like the ancient Hebrew people of the Scriptures, we too come before you on this Thanksgiving morning and make our declaration
“I declare today to the Creator my God, that we have come to the land the Creator swore to our ancestors to give us.”
As the ancient Hebrews were led to a “Promised Land”, our ancestors were also wandering people. Tracking the trails of the animals they hunted and venturing to the places where the plants and herbs grew, they in fact followed the path you, O Creator, set for them.
And when they paused in their journeys they raised their thanksgiving to you, O Creator.
Millennia ago their wanderings lead our ancestors across the ice bridge you caused to be formed over the northern sea. It was a hard and long journey, frequently encountering dangers they could never have anticipated. Our forefathers and foremothers had no way of knowing where their journey would end, yet they trusted to follow bravely wherever Creator lead them.
And in their darkest and most frightening moments, they paused, offered their seema, and raised their thanksgiving to you, O Creator.
For forty times forty years, they wandered ever southward, encountering massive forests, crystal clear lakes, bountiful game, and a land that readily provided the plants and herbs required to sustain life. The essence of the ancient teachings became apparent to them, for the Creator had truly brought them out to this land “with a mighty hand, an outstretched arm, with great terror, but also with miraculous signs and wonders.”
And in this wondrous realization, they paused, offered their seema, and raised their thanksgiving to you, O Creator.
Our foremothers and forefathers said to themselves: “We were brought to this place and given this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. Therefore now we bring the first-fruits of the soil that you, O Creator, have given me.”
And so it was that at harvest-time each year, when every tribe and nation recognized that they had set aside enough to bring them through the long, cold, months of winter, our ancestors gave us the teachings of Thanksgiving.
“We were brought to this place and given this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. Therefore now I bring the first-fruits of the soil that you, O Creator, have given me.”
In time the others came – traveling on great wooden sailing ships from Europe and elsewhere in the world – but seeking also a “Promised Land”. They knew little of the rigors of this new land they had come to, and they would surely have perished had not our forefathers and foremothers shared their teachings with these strangers.
But when they had brought in their first harvest, our ancestors also taught them to: “Place your basket before the Creator your God and bow down And you and the aliens among you shall rejoice in all the good things the Creator your God has given to you and your household.”
And so our ancestors, along with those who had been aliens to this “Promised Land”, rejoiced in all the good things that you, O Creator our God, had given to them and their households.
Those who came also brought new ways with them – some of which were of great assistance to our ancestors – but some of which worked much harm to the Anishinaabe. Through the teachings of Jesus the Christ we received yet another vision of you, O Creator, and came to appreciate that your message of love and compassion embraced all of humanity.
Yet, even those teachings came a great cost to our people, as frequently very little love and compassion was shown while the Anishinaabe gradually found themselves disposed and treated as aliens in their own land. From every tribe and every nation the sounds of lamentation were heard.
But, even in their sorrow, our ancestors never lost faith in you, O Creator, and they still paused, offered their seema, to raise their thanksgiving.
There followed many hard decades – years when the Anishinaabe were despised and ridiculed – the teachings dismissed and outlawed as evil superstition – First Nations reduced to beggars, dependant upon the cold charity of institutions. Even the churches that first brought the liberating message of Jesus, through misguided notions of moral self-righteousness, endeavoured to assimilate and eliminate the proud heritage of our people.
Our forefathers and foremothers were given bowls of shame to drink, and were feed upon the bread of unworthiness. Many lives were crushed and families destroyed under the intoxicating corruption of alcohol and drugs – far too many of our brothers and sisters spiritually broken by the vicious cruelty of prison.
Yet, a core of faith remained strong within some, and still they pause to raise their thanksgiving to you, O Creator, for what remained.
But you, O Creator, never forgot your Original Peoples, and thought the years of trial and testing were hard and many were broken, there arose a new and stronger spiritual flame within your Anishinaabe. Even as the ancient Hebrews were molded into a new nation by their years of harsh servitude, so too has the crucible of the last 150 years forged our people into a culture justifiably proud of it’s heritage and traditions.
As men and women we come before you now, humbled by the magnitude of the sacrifices our foremothers and forefathers made for our survival, compassionate to the festering wounds that still remain, and determined that all of this suffering shall not have been in vain.
It is with a new and flourishing sense of pride that we recognize ourselves as Anishinaabe, O Creator, and like those who have gone before us we now pause and raise our thanksgiving to you.

At Thanksgiving we remember your constant love and concern for all who have made their home in Canada, and we are truly thankful for all that we have received. We look about us at our families and friends; and we think of the security of our homes.
At these times we are drawn closer to those we love, and who in turn love us. All that we have represents the certainty of your faithfulness to us as your people, and moves us to sincerely repeat the words of the ancient hymn of praise, saying;
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord. God of power and might. Heaven and earth are filled with your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed indeed, is the one who came in your name, and gave to us the tradition of fellowship through the “sinner’s meal of forgiveness”. Gathered together here this morning we now prepare to continue that tradition of fellowship, and so of course – we remember:
We remember that on the very evening before he died, Jesus called all of his friends together for a meal. He tended to their every need, provided for their comfort, and served each one of them.
Part way through the meal he picked up a loaf bread, (ELEVATE BREAD) and having thank you for it just as we have done, he broke the bread and passed it around to everyone present. Even knowing that Judas would soon betray him, even still, Jesus served the bread to him as well. And it was then that he said to them: “Take this, all of you, and eat it! This is my body, given for you. Each time you do this, remember me.”
And we also remember that some little while later, Jesus then picked up a cup that was on the table (ELEVATE CUP), and once again he thanked you. He passed it around then to all of his friends, and he said: “This cup is the new promise God has made with you in my blood! Each time you do this, and drink from this cup, remember me.”
And remember we do! We remember his death and celebrate his resurrection, for we wait with hope for his coming again, to bring peace and justice to the earth.
Come, our brother Jesus, Come! Send your Holy Spirit upon us and what we do here, that we and these gifts, having been touched by your Spirit, may become signs of life and love to each other, and to all the world.
Through Christ, with Christ, and in Christ, and in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory be yours, now and for evermore. Amen

Carolyn Venema sends photographs of great beauty:

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Finally from Wendy Adams:

Prayers of Thanksgiving
Holy One, keeper of the universe. We pause for a moment, before the feasting that lies ahead of us, to offer our thanksgiving.

Our hearts are full of gratitude for this place, these friends and this time. Outside the harvest fires send frangrant smoke, Vs of geese make their pilgrimage overhead, and the trees draw in their sap giving us the beauty of russet autumn colors.

Almighty God, you have given us this good land as our heritage. Bless this country with honest industry, sound learning and an honorable way of life. We commend our nation to your merciful care that we may live securely in peace and may be guided by your providence. Keep us from social strife, and give us strength of purpose and concern for others that we may create a community of justice and peace where your will may be done.

Gracious God, hear our prayers for this congregation. By the power of the Holy Spirit we have been drawn together by one baptism into one faith, serving one Lord and Savior. Keeper of the heart, kindle in us the warmth of compassion for our friends and neighbors. Blow gently on the embers of faithfulness and empathy. Do not let us tear away from one another through division or argument. May your peace embrace our differences, preserving us in unity.

Strengthen the faithful, arouse the careless, and restore the penitent. Grant us all things necessary for our common life, and bring us all to be of one heart and mind within your holy church.

We pause to remember our friends and family who are suffering with cancers, trauma, and the frailties of old age. We thank you for the healing care they receive and ask that you would sustain us to bring courage and wholeness to them. And may they be comforted by our love.

Give us a Spirit to welcome all people with affection so that your church may never exclude anyone who is included in the Love of Jesus Christ who came to save us all. Do not let us be discouraged, but make us brave and glad and hopeful in your word; so that we may go out into the world with the good news of your undying love, and minister in the midst of human need to show the wonders of your grace.
In deepest thanksgiving and gratitude we pray to you O Lord. Amen.

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2 Responses to Celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving

  1. Thank you so much for sharing these prayers!

  2. Maren says:

    they are wonderful, aren’t they and all so very different!

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