A Thanksgiving Liturgy of Gratitude, Prayer, Song, and Feast

At the congregation where I served as associate pastor for seven years, there was an annual tradition of an Agape Meal. The Sunday before Thanksgiving, a group would remain after morning worship to transform the sanctuary from rows of chairs facing forward to chairs around tables, similar to the dining area of a restaurant. That evening, participants would return for a feast with conversation, hymns of Thanksgiving, and stories of gratitude.

The following liturgy adapts that traditions for use in almost any setting (with or without a meal). In place of transforming the sanctuary, another option is to follow this liturgy with a potluck meal.

Each section generally has three parts: (1) an open time of sharing experiences of gratitude from the last year related to a specific theme, (2) a hymn to help recapitulate and extend the spoken words of thanksgiving, and (3) a prayer offered by an individual. To the best of my knowledge this liturgy originated with The Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, President of the Interfaith Alliance.

The People of God Gather for Worship

 

The Welcome

 

The Gathering Hymn: Now Thank We All Our God(New Century Hymnal 419)

The Prayer: (repeat three times slowly)

Breathing in: “I stand in awe…”

Breathing out: “…of all creation.” 
[from the Spirituality and Practice website]

 

The Great Thanksgiving

 

I

The Words of Thanksgiving for The Good Earth (food, water, trees, air, beach, meadows, mountains)

 

The Hymn: “For the Beauty of Meadows

 

The Prayer of Thanksgiving (by Walter Rauschenbusch, 1861–1918)

For the wide sky and the blessed sun,
For the salt sea and the running water,
For the everlasting hills
And the never-resting winds,
For trees and the common grass underfoot.
We thank you for our senses
By which we hear the songs of birds,
And see the splendor of the summer fields,
And taste of the autumn fruits,
And rejoice in the feel of the snow,
And smell the breath of the spring.
Grant us a heart wide open to all this beauty;
And save our souls from being so blind
That we pass unseeing
When even the common thornbush
Is aflame with your glory,
O God our creator,
Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.

 

II

The Words of Thanksgiving for Citizenship and Freedom (country, democracy, peace and international neighbors)

 

The Hymn: This is My Song” (NCH 291)

The Prayer of Thanksgiving

This is my song, O God of all the nations, a song of peace for lands afar and mine; this is my home, the country where my heart is; here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine: but other hearts in other lands are beating with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean, and sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine; but other lands have sunlight too, and clover, and skies are everywhere as blue as mine: O hear my song, thou God of all the nations, a song of peace for their land and for mine.

This is my song, O God of all the nations, a prayer that peace transcends in every place; and yet I pray for my beloved country–the reassurance of continued grace: Lord, help us find our one-ness in the Savior, in spite of differences of age and race.

May truth and freedom come to every nation; may peace abound where strife has raged so long; that each may seek to love and build together, a world united, righting every wrong; a world united in its love for freedom, proclaiming peace together in one song.

III

The Words of Thanksgiving for Institutional Involvements (work, service organizations, schools)

 

The Hymn: For the Fruit of All Creation

The Prayer of Thanksgiving

Let us join our hands and hearts in gratitude on this wondrous day, where we have the abundance of our lives before us. We remember on this day of bounty all of those who do not have enough, who are afraid, who are lonely, and who suffer. We wish for the abundance of this world to be shared, for fear to become love, for the lonely to feel welcomed, and for the suffering to know rest and joy. For the labors, the love, the care that gave us the delights of this and every day, we say “Thanks!” For the nourishment of our spirit, the challenges that strengthen us, and the friends we have on the journey, we sing “Thanks!” For all that is our lives, for these good gifts, we whisper, “Thanks!” Overflowing with gratitude, let us shout, “Thanks!” Amen.

Naomi King, “A Thanksgiving Blessing”

IV

The Words of Thanksgiving for Interpersonal Relationships (family, friends, diversity, new acquaintances)

 

The Hymn: All Are Welcome

The Prayer of Thanksgiving

Starter Prayer: “For family who are friends, and friends who are family….”

V

The Words of Thanksgiving for Spiritual Resources (faith, Broadview Church, scriptures, teachers, music)

The Hymn: “Wisdom’s Feast”

 

Excerpt from “The Prayer of Thanksgiving” by Howard Thurman, 1899–1981

Today, I make my Sacrament of Thanksgiving.
I begin with the simple things of my days:
Fresh air to breathe,
Cool water to drink,
The taste of food,
The protection of houses and clothes,
The comforts of home.
For all these I make an act of Thanksgiving this day!

 

A Potluck Meal of Fellowship and Gratitude

 

The Blessing over the Meal: The Doxology

Praise God from whom all blessings flow,

Praise Christ, all creatures here below.

Praise Holy Spirit, Comforter,

One God Triune, whom we adore. Amen.

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About Carl Gregg

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