While most churches conduct services these days with half, or more, of the pews empty, folks from around this county will fill up a large mainstream house of worship for a Thanksgiving service this morning, as they have been doing for a half-century or more.
Members of at least eight congregations, representing a half-dozen ways of thinking about observances and the Bible, and theology in general, will stand and sing and pray together simply because it is this societyʼs day to give thanks and because they are all Americans.
The service, called the Community Thanksgiving Worship, begins at 10 a.m. today (Thursday, Nov. 27). It will be held this year at the Washington Baptist Church.
The service will bring together Protestants, Catholics and Unitarians. Among the congregations participating are Washington Baptist, First Baptist Church of Washington, Trinity Episcopal, Reynolds Memorial Baptist of Sperryville, Saint Peterʼs Catholic Church, the Unitarian Universalists of the Blue Ridge (UUBRidge), Rappahannock United Methodists, Promise Land Baptist and the Ruritan Club of Amissville.
Rev. Walt Childress of Washington Baptist will offer the call to worship at the beginning of todayʼs service. The invocation will be offered by Rev. James M. Kilby of First Baptist. Father “Tuck” Grinnell of St. Peterʼs Catholic Church will lead the conjoined congregations in the litany of Thanksgiving.
The pastoral prayer and the Lordʼs prayer will be led by Rev. Jon Heddleston of Reynolds Memorial. Russ Savage of UUBRidge will present the responses of Thanksgiving.
Of special note this time: Jennings “Jenks” Hobson III of Trinity Episcopal, who has been participating in these joint services for all of his 42 years in this little town (“They were doing this when I got here,” says he) will deliver the sermon. It will be his final sermon at this event, as Jenks is retiring the middle of next year.
The service in the town of Washington today is not the only unified worship around Rappahannock; the folks in Amissville have a tradition of being together in a similar fashion, for a joint worship. The Amissville celebration took place this past Sunday evening (Nov. 23), in advance of Thanksgiving day itself.
The host in Amissville, because his church’s building is one of the largest, is Dr. Ed Taylor of Amissville Baptist. The welcome and opening prayer were offered by the Rev. Ronnie Poe of Woodville Baptist. The New Harvest Christian Fellowship stood to offer the praise and worship rites. Special music was presented by the Amissville Full Gospel Church. The mixed congregation was also joined by a few of the faithful from just down the road at Bethel Baptist.
In Amissville, the music during the offertory was performed by the United Methodist Church folks; Pastor J. T. Pittman II of the Full Gospel Church read the scripture; Dr. Taylor presented a special Thanksgiving message. Everyone joined to sing the hymn “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come.” And the closing prayer was offered by Rev. Maxine Crenshaw of the Amissville United Methodist Church.
What people will be doing today in the town of Washington is what folks did in Amissville this past Sunday: greet one another in the spirit of the season, and shake hands in warmth and welcome. So, wherever you are, you are permitted to do just that: Look someone in the eye, stick out your hand and consider that you are happy to be saying something nice to a fellow American.