ONEIDA, NY — Churches throughout Oneida gathered Sunday afternoon at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church for a Thanksgiving service.
The service was a collection of songs that concluded with a food drive for area food pantries and a cash donation by attendees for Oneida United Methodist Church’s Karing Kitchen. The presentation was of non-perishable goods that Kevin Bailey of Three Voices Presbyterian prayed over at the service’s conclusion.
Karing Kitchen Coordinator Melissa King read from II Corinthians 12:7-10. Father James Buttner based his homily on the scripture. It describes Paul’s learning from him to depend entirely on God in the midst of difficult circumstances.
“As believers, we can learn to praise God in all circumstances and acknowledge trust as a virtue because we know all things come from God,” Buttner said.
Buttner spoke in the context of his car breaking down when he was in extreme need of a ride. The Apostle Paul was a religious zealot formerly named Saul who had once murdered Christians before Christ showed him the errors of his ways. Paul became the pre-eminent missionary of the early church but suffered for his faith.
This included being whipped three times with 39 lashes and rejection from those to whom he presented the Gospel.
In the scripture, Paul said God gave him a thorn in the flesh to keep him humble and focused on God. Theologians have debated what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was. Buttner told Thorn, whether it involves persecution, illness, poverty or cars that do not start, is a way that God can speak to believers.
“His ability to accept suffering and still give thanks is, to me, a bigger transformation from Saul the zealot to Paul the apostle,” Buttner said. “These moments of suffering can be points of grace to all of us if we slow down enough to hear what God is saying.”
Attendees shared their thanksgiving to God with a series of musical numbers during the service. The Oneida Area Civic Chorale performed “In the Spirit of Thanksgiving,” “The Lord Bless You and Keep You” and “Simple Gifts.” Chorale conductor Mark Bunce played Wagner’s “Rejoice, Give Thanks and Sing!” on solo piano to begin the service.
The congregation sang the hymns “Come Ye Thankful People Come,” “For the Fruit of All Creation” and “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow.” Pastor Jeff Leahey of Church on the Rock performed his original composition “By Still Waters” with his wife Amy, son Jordan and his group “The Promise.”
Pastor Mike Yeoman led the congregation in a responsive reading. Psalm 136:1-5, 23-26. The Psalm lists various attributes of God and what He has done in each verse. In response the congregation read the psalm’s refrain, “His love endures forever.”
The First National Proclamation of Thanksgiving was given by the Continental Congress in 1777 from its temporary location in York, Pennsylvania, while the British occupied the national capital at Philadelphia.
According to National Geographic, Plymouth Colony was composed of English Protestants called Puritans who wanted to split with the Church of England. They initially moved to Holland. But after 12 years of financial problems, they received funding from English merchants to sail across the Atlantic Ocean in 1620 to settle in a “New World.”
Carrying 101 men, women, and children, the Mayflower traveled the ocean for 66 days and was supposed to land where New York City is now located. But windy conditions forced the group to settle at what is now Cape Cod, Mass.
As the Puritans prepared for winter, they gathered anything they could find, including Wampanoag supplies. One day, Samoset, a leader of the Abenaki people, and Squanto visited the settlers. Squanto was a Wampanoag who had experience with other settlers and knew English. Squanto helped the settlers grow corn and use fish to fertilize their fields.
After several meetings, a formal agreement was made between the settlers and the native people, and in March 1621, they joined together to protect each other from other tribes.
One day that fell, four settlers were sent to hunt for food for a harvest celebration. The Wampanoag heard gunshots and alerted their leader, Massasoit, who thought the English might be preparing for war. Massasoit visited the English settlement with 90 of his men to see if the war rumor was true.
They realized that the English were only hunting for the harvest celebration. Massasoit sent some of his own men to hunt deer for the feast and for three days, the English and native men, women, and children tied together. The meal consisted of deer, corn and shellfish. They played ball games, sang and danced.
Turkey didn’t gain prominence at the dinner table until after 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving as a national holiday to help unify the country amidst a civil war.
Although prayers and thanks were probably offered at the 1621 harvest gathering, the first recorded religious Thanksgiving Day in Plymouth happened in 1623. On this occasion, the colonists gave thanks to God for rain after a two-month drought.
According to Feeding America, more than 44 million people in the US face hunger, including one in five children. Millions of people in the US don’t have enough food to eat or don’t have access to healthy food. In 2022 alone, 49 million people turned to food assistance for extra help.
Resources for those needing food this Thanksgiving may visit https://www.foodbankcny.org. Local food pantries include:
• Karing Kitchen, 315-363-2450.
• Church on the Rock, 315-280-4044.
• Compassion Connection, 315-697-2866.
• Opportunity Shop, 315-697-3140.
• Verona Food Pantry, 315-225-0559.
• Munnsville Food Pantry, 315-495-6603.
• Sullivan Food Cupboard Incorporation, 315-687-3290.
• Rome Food Pantry, 315-337-8600.
• Community Coming Together Free Food Distribution, 315-337-0990.