With no time to plant crops or establish a town or community on land, 45 settlers succumbed to malnutrition, scurvy or other diseases that first winter as they lived aboard the Mayflower. Sick and weak, and with insufficient food supplies, the survivors struggled on.
The next year was a different story. With the help of the nearby Wampanoag tribe, the remaining settlers were able to supplement their food stores with crops and hunted animals. As the harvest drew near, the Pilgrims and the Native Americans held a three-day-long celebratory feast. Two years later, Governor William Bradford declared the harvest festival a day to "render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings." Recognizing a divine hand in the colony's prosperity and survival, Bradford dedicated time to thank Him for it.
More than 200 years later, embroiled in the midst of the U.S. Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national celebration, to be "a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens." In the middle of a war that divided a country, Lincoln, like Bradford, set aside a day for praise.
And now, 147 years after Lincoln's proclamation and 389 after Bradford's, Americans find themselves again approaching a day established to give thanks to God for His blessings in their lives. These two men challenged the people to count their blessings in spite of harsh conditions and war, and this issue's "Ready to Answer" challenges you to do the same, in spite of whatever trials you may be facing.
So, what are you thankful for?
Send in Your Response
Send your 100 to 300-word answer, along with your name and congregation, to your local pastor and ask him to forward it to United News. You can also e-mail them to UN@ucg.org. We may use your response in an upcoming United News! UN
June Ready to Answer Question: Your coworkers ask you one day what makes your church so great that you go back every week? There are plenty of reasons, but you'll need to keep your response brief and to the point or risk losing your coworkers' attention. How do you answer?
"I have had similar conversations and have had people comment that they would never make a long drive to church. 'Been there. Done that!' I have heard some say.
"After one such conversation, my husband and I were in a retail establishment. At one point during our shopping, we found ourselves behind another customer in the same aisle as us. When he turned around, the back of his T-shirt had a profound statement written on it. This statement has become my motto: 'The church that is alive is worth the drive.' That is the end of it. No more needs to be said.
Bismarck, North Dakota, congregation
"Well, some 20-plus years ago, when President Ronald Reagan declared it to be the 'Year of the Bible' in America, I decided to read the Bible cover to cover. It took me nine months to do it, but I discovered right there in the second chapter of Genesis, the very first book in the Bible, God blessed and made the Sabbath on the seventh day of creation in verses 2 and 3! I used to think it was just for Israel, but Israel didn't come along until more than 2,000 years later.
"So I started wondering if any Christian church anywhere was keeping God's commands the way He made them. A few weeks later I found the Church and learned there were congregations in many countries! I found the closest one and started going every Saturday. I thought if they knew the truth about the Sabbath being made in the beginning for all mankind, maybe they knew the truth about lots of other Bible things too. I've been going ever since."
Saginaw, Michigan, congregation
"Let me answer it this way. You all have, or desire to have, families and want those families to have the best you can provide for them. This means teaching them good values by which to live and be successful in life. Well, God is our Creator and Father, and He desires that for us as well. That is why He left us with His instruction manual, the Bible. I go to church each week to hear the lessons and instructions in that manual in order to apply them in my life. It provides the purpose for life and a vision to a wonderful future."
Tacoma, Washington, congregation
"From the beginning, what impressed me about my church was that its teachings are rational. Sure, emotion does have a place in religion, but not first place.
"One example of a rational teaching is that my church does not believe in eternal hell fire torture for sinners. All churches teach that God is love. But then they say that if you don't give your heart to the Lord, or if some priest doesn't reach you in time on your deathbed, you'll burn forever in hell.
"To die is one thing. To be tortured forever is worse than what Hitler, Stalin or any murderer could ever contemplate, and that makes God a monster. To believe God is both love and a monster is a contradiction.
"Another rational teaching of my church is that all humans who have ever lived will have an equal opportunity for salvation. In other words, God is fair. Most if not all of the churches I've studied believe that unless you accept Christ as your Savior before you die in this life, you lose salvation.
"What about the billions of people who have never heard of Christ? Are they lost forever? To believe God is love and not fair is also a contradiction.
"Finally, my church believes that the Bible and the examples found in it best express the will of God. There are many varied and contradictory teachings in the world today, but what Christ and the apostles taught does not change with time.
"So my church tries to follow Paul's admonition: 'Follow me as I follow Christ.'
"If you're trying to please God with your worship, this seems the logical thing to do.
"For these reasons, and much more, my church is worth a two-hour trip."
Los Angeles, California, congregation
"Hmm, I go to church every weekend because it makes my week complete when I go to the family gathering God the Father planned. After a hard week, it is great to hear His encouraging words and have fellowship with the brethren."
Eau Claire, Wisconsin, congregation