Now Thank We All Our God!
Dear St. Andrew’s Hall residents,
Happy Thanksgiving! I trust this message finds you well and busy in your course of study here at UBC. We are so grateful to have you in our SAH community this term and pray blessing upon your time of study, research and writing. For those in our community who have joined us from outside of North America, the holiday of Thanksgiving may be unfamiliar. In the United States, Thanksgiving celebrations are in November and focus often on the arrival of Puritan settlers in New England, and the hospitality shown to them by Indigenous peoples. In Canada, our Thanksgiving festivals are more closely tied to the harvest, and the gratitude shown by Canadians to God for provision of abundance. This practice of thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest also reaches back to our Indigenous peoples’ celebration of the Creator’s provision. Until the end of the First World War, Canadians marked Thanksgiving in early November, but later moved it to October offering some distance from the November 11th Remembrance Day ceremonies.
This year, during the challenging realities of Covid-19 and the first global pandemic in a century, Thanksgiving takes on a different feeling. Many of us are thankful for the basic provisions of life: health, family, shelter and sustenance of body, mind and soul. In our Thanksgiving church services we often sing the old hymn “Now Thank we all our God.” I was struck this week when researching the origins of the hymn, to discover that it was written by Martin Rinckart (1586-1649) who was a minister and musician in Eilenburg outside of Leipzig, Germany during the Thirty Years’ War. The city was full of plague and he was one of the last remaining ministers providing up to fifty funerals a day during the pandemic. And yet, he sat down and wrote:
Now thank we all our God
with heart and hands and voices,
who wondrous things has done,
in whom his world rejoices;
who from our mothers’ arms
has blessed us on our way
with countless gifts of love,
and still is ours today.
Finding a way to give thanks even in a most difficult time truly is a gift. I pray that here at St. Andrew’s Hall this Thanksgiving, you too may receive this most precious gift of gratitude and grace.
The Reverend Dr. Ross A. Lockhart
Dean of St. Andrew’s Hall.