Two hundred and seventeen years ago, the President of the New Republic, George Washington, made a proclamation that We should set aside a day of Thanksgiving to God. It was the 26th of November,1789.
Prior to that date the Pilgrims had made a Thanksgiving proclamation on June 29th, 1676, and it took place in Charlestown, Massachusetts. The governing council of Charlestown, Massachusetts, held a meeting to determine how best to express thanks for the good fortune that had seen their community securely established. By unanimous vote they instructed Edward Rawson, the clerk, to proclaim June 29 as a day of thanksgiving.   The proclamation concluded with the following words: "The Council has thought meet to appoint and set apart the 29th day of this instant June, as a day of Solemn Thanksgiving and praise to God for such his Goodness and Favour, many Particulars of which mercy might be Instanced, but we doubt not those who are sensible of God's Afflictions, have been as diligent to espy him returning to us; and that the Lord may behold us as a People offering Praise and thereby glorifying Him; the Council doth commend it to the Respective Ministers, Elders and people of this Jurisdiction; Solemnly and seriously to keep the same Beseeching that being perswaded by the mercies of God we may all, even this whole people offer up our bodies and soulds as a living and acceptable Service unto God by Jesus Christ." The language is the same as was used in those early days of the New Americans, and it shows that despite being beset by disease, failed crops and severe weather. The New Americans wanted to thank God for their survival. The people who would come to be known as the Pilgrims (known as the Pilgrim Fathers in the UK) were brought together by a common belief in the ideas promoted by Richard Clyfton, parson at All Saints' Parish Church in Babworth, East Retford, Nottinghamshire, between 1586 and 1605. This congregation held Separatist beliefs comparable to nonconforming movements not in communion with the Church of England). Unlike conforming Puritan groups who maintained their membership in and allegiance to the Church of England, Separatists held that their differences with the Church of England were irreconcilable and that their worship should be organized independently of the trappings, traditions and organization of a central state church. The Separatists had long been controversial. Under the 1559 Act of Uniformity, it was illegal not to attend official Church of England services, with a fine of 12 d ( £.05; 2005 equivalent: about £5) for each missed Sunday and holy day. The penalties for conducting unofficial services included imprisonment and larger fines. Under the policy of this time, Barrowe and Greenwood were executed for sedition in 1593. Concerned with losing their cultural identity, the group arranged with English investors to establish a new colony in North America. The colony, established in 1620, became the second successful English settlement in what was to become the United States of America, the first being Jamestown, Virginia, which was founded in 1607. Their story was to become a central theme in United States cultural identity. But if you fast forward to today you can readily see that the main reason the Pilgrims came to the "New World", Religion, has been largely discarded and removed from most all forms of our daily lives. Secular humanism has taken it's place. License has been replaced for freedom. If it feels good, do it. I am O.K. you're O.K. has taken over the real Truth. Thanksgiving today, is just a day off work, with people of means gorging themselves and watching football. God has been replaced with television and the pursuit of pleasure. It is as if the God of today is the almighty Turkey. In 1939 President Roosevelt started the movement toward secularizing Thanksgiving when he tried to move the date from the fourth Thursday, as proclaimed by President Lincoln during the Civil War, to the third Thursday of November. His reason for proposing the change, as verified by his papers in the Presidential library, was to give one more week of Christmas shopping to help quick start the stagnant economy of the depression. He finally settled for the fourth Thursday due to severe pressure of a letter writing campaign against the change. Congress approved the date in 1941. Tomorrow we all should give thanks to whatever Being you believe has allowed this Country to persevere, despite the threats and calumny that have afflicted Us in the last 400 years. I myself will give thanks to Almighty God for his blessings and the trials and tribulations that have made us stronger, and I hope all of you will take a moment to reflect on the blessings that we still have and are worth fighting to preserve!