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Gobble up culture at Thanksgiving

Celebrating the true spirit of Thanksgiving requires recognizing the many cultures in the United States and God's vital role. A sermon given awhile back at Dellville United Methodist Church, Duncannon, Pa., encapsulated the spirit of the holiday.

"Thanksgiving is so much more than the traditional meal we share. Thanksgiving Day is a uniquely Christian day. It makes absolutely no sense outside the context of faith. In the context of faith, however, it has great meaning."

Joining faith and culture can offer an excellent juncture to celebrate in your congregation. Navajo United Methodist Center, Farmington, N.M., offers transitional housing, spiritual and development for abused women and children and takes extreme care to honor Native American cultures and traditions. During its Thanksgiving service, women burn sage, a Native American custom for purification.

In East Lansing, Mich., home to Michigan State, University United Methodist Church hosts a U.S. culture night for visiting international professionals and their families. It provides the opportunity to learn about and experience U.S. culture. The evening includes a lesson on the history of Thanksgiving as well as an edible reflection on the United States melting pot-a gathering of people from many countries to consume a potluck dinner.

The Thanksgiving celebration typically centers on food. After all, its other name is "Turkey Day." Create your own cornucopia by hosting a multicultural lunch after worship the Sunday before Thanksgiving. Participants can bring dishes representing their cultural background. They even can share the story behind the dish in a pass-the-microphone program or write their memories and the recipe on a card to leave beside the dish. Someone can collect the cards and create a one-of-a-kind cookbook filled with the love and ingredients needed to cook up the congregation's memories.

If you have no time for an elaborate Thanksgiving celebration at your church, simply ask your congregation to name the things for which they are thankful. Ask them to send e-mails, Twitter or write on paper after service to drop in a "thanks" basket. While you need not include names, share the "thanks"-post on screens before worship, publish on your Web site or print in the next newsletter. Let your congregation inspire each other.