Thanksgiving is a national holiday with historical roots that has attained a spiritual context.
Loudon County pastors and churches have taken different approaches for bringing spirituality into the yearly ritual of gratitude.
Churches across the county are holding thanksgiving dinners for the congregation or entire community and donating food to make sure no one goes hungry.
Pastors are also offering special messages to their congregations about the need to express thanks for all God has given based on passages such as 2 Corinthians 4:15, which says, “All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.”
Central United Methodist Church in Lenoir City will be holding a free Thanksgiving meal for newcomers to the community, travelers and anyone who does not want to eat alone, the Rev. Scott Layer, senior pastor, said.
“They will have a meal and share fellowship,” he said.
The meal is primarily by invitation and church members are particularly reaching out to those who have lost loved ones recently, he said.
“The hope is to provide a sense of connection so that they won’t have to feel alone,” Layer said.
The church will also have a special service Sunday to celebrate the gratitude Christians should feel on Thanksgiving, he said. The church will participate in a pulpit exchange with Lennon-Seney United Methodist Church in Knoxville.
Layer will be preaching in east Knoxville, while the Rev. Leah Burns will be preaching a sermon, “Bold Gratitude,” at the Lenoir City church. Members of each church will swap attendance to build stronger relationships.
Layer will speak on the gratitude all Christians should feel for God on Thanksgiving Day and all year. He said Philippians 1:3 teaches, “I thank my God every time I remember you.”
First Baptist Church in Lenoir City will be providing a free Thanksgiving Day meal for anyone in the community who wants to participate. The meal will be served noon-1 p.m. in the church fellowship hall.
Anyone in the community is welcome, and carry-out meals can be delivered to people who cannot leave their homes. Transportation will be provided for anyone in need. Those who want to attend are asked to call the church in advance to register at 865-755-1278.
“Everyone is welcome,” the Rev. Dick DeMerchant, pastor of senior adults and pastoral care, said. “We don’t want anyone to be alone.”
Food is being provided by the church and the meal will be prepared by kitchen staff. Members of the congregation will also be available to minister to those in need.
“There will definitely be a spiritual content to the day,” DeMerchant said. “We will help people in any way they are asking.”
He said the holiday has spiritual meaning based on the thanks people give to the Lord daily for all blessings. He said church members try to show gratitude to God by helping others.
“I think God has placed First Baptist Church where it is to help people,” DeMerchant said. “We want to act like servants.”
The Rev. Amy Moorehouse of the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection will lead a special Thanksgiving Day service at 10 a.m. Members of the congregation can attend before they go home to have a meal with their families.
“It’s a lovely way we gather for communion and offer thanks for God for his goodness,” she said.
Moorehouse said her congregation has been collecting food to donate to the Good Samaritan Center of Loudon County. She said the food is blessed each week in church before being taken for donation.
Blairland Baptist Church in Loudon also worked to help feed the hungry with a food giveaway. In cooperation with Second Harvest Food Bank, the church handed out free food Friday.
The Rev. Jon Henson, senior pastor, said he always delivers a Thanksgiving sermon to remind his congregation of the need to be grateful.
“It’s near the end of the year,” he said. “I ask them to look back across the whole year to remember everything they have to be thankful for and to look toward what they will be given in the new year.
Showing gratitude should be a motivation for everything we do in our life, Henson said.
“God rewards us for our gratitude,” he said.