“Really there’s no Thanksgiving service in our community,” says Jim Davis, the congregation’s pastor. “When we look around at all the stores and activities, we seem to go directly from Halloween to Christmas without stopping in between.” So Jim came up with an idea to slow this time of the year down so they could focus on Thanksgiving. “I went out and found a cherry tree in an old hedge row,” he explains — though it was more of a “scrub bush,” he says, than an actual tree.
And when he approached the farmer who owned it, “The farmer said, ‘Please, cut it down. Get it out of here!’”
Now Jim will be using the “bare stick tree” as an opportunity for his congregation to spend four Sundays in November giving thanks.
The “Thanksgiving tree” is just one of several ideas Jim decided to try at his congregation after attending a Rediscover Macedonia workshop — an ELCA initiative designed to get congregations thinking creatively about generosity and stewardship. For Jim, though, stewardship begins first with an awareness of what God is doing.
“On the first Sunday, All Saints Sunday, we passed out leaves with many fall colors cut out of construction paper,” Jim shares. He invited those in attendance to “think of the name of a person who is no longer with us, but you are thankful to have in your life, and write the name of the person on the leaf.” During the offering, each person was asked to put their leaf in the offering plate.
“The second week we wrote down the name of a family member or friend who has had a special, positive influence on our lives,” he recalls.
For the third Sunday, they “focused on a profession, like a highway worker, dishwasher or a person who cleans our work space — someone we really don’t think of and that we may take for granted, but if they didn’t do their job we’d miss them.”
Then on the fourth Sunday, Jim says, “We’ll be focusing on someone special from a congregation that we’ve attended in our lifetime. Then all of the tree will be decorated, and that will be our Thanksgiving tree.”
When the tree is completed, Jim hopes it “will bring Thanksgiving into who we are by reminding us of the many blessings we have received through the special people in our lives.”
He hopes that the Thanksgiving tree will be an inspiration to the congregation as they reflect on the many blessings in their lives, and realize that true stewardship comes from a deep appreciation of what God has given us.