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  • David Popham

Reflections on Thanksgiving by our Conference Minister


How do we celebrate Thanksgiving in a time of decolonization? As we become more aware of the dark side of American expansionism and the injury and historical trauma it continues to leave in its wake, what do we do with "national" holidays?


In our time we are witnessing the success of moving the emphasis off the "discoverers of the new world" and recognizing the First Peoples. This is a shift in awareness that human histories in the Americas did not start with Columbus, or even the Vikings, but with those brave souls who ventured across the Bering Strait land bridge during the last Ice Age and built intricate civilizations across North and South America.


Similarly, as we all know, human history in Hawai‘i did not start with Captain Cook. Rather, adventurous souls, with a wisdom of stars and currents, sailed across vast open waters. Here they raised up a society that developed a holistic approach to life tied to the ‘āina and the moana, bequeathing a deep spirituality that remains palpable in the Hawaiian culture to this day.


As we celebrate Thanksgiving, let us be mindful of those who came before Captain Cook and Columbus, who lived and loved and attuned their spiritual sensitivity to the revelation of God through sacred stories and understandings that are different from those in the Bible, yet, nonetheless, possess the ability to connect the faithful to God.


The Conference is heir both to the colonizers and the colonized. Our legacy blesses us with this peculiar perplexity that includes within it the hope of God to appropriately reconcile the hurts of the past while seeking a healed future. As we celebrate Thanksgiving in the midst of our contemporary pandemic, may we come to understand better how the influence of a foreign invader (human or virus), while changing everything, cannot remove from us the bounteous love of God.


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