As their congregations count blessings tomorrow, many churches are asking for generosity along with prayerful thanks.
"Let's share God's gifts, so more of us can express gratitude to him," said the Rev. Jerry Fuss, guest speaker at today's 7:30 p.m. ecumenical service at Emmanuel (Baust) United Church of Christ in Tyrone.
"While we must be thankful, our blessings cannot come at the expense of those who are struggling in these difficult economic times."
Many pastors will reiterate that theme, encouraging their congregations to see Thanksgiving as an opportunity to offer prayers of gratitude for what they have and to give generously to those who have not.
"I think of Thanksgiving as two words," said the Rev. Dave Rogers,pastor of Emmanuel. "We give thanks, and we emphasize giving to the needy."
Rogers and other members of the Taneytown Caring and Sharing ministries planned the service, during which congregations from 10churches will gather at Emmanuel, at 2940 Old Taneytown Road.
Offerings of food and money will be accepted for Carroll County Food Sunday and county shelter programs. The service itself has become a Taneytown tradition, dating to 1977, said Fuss.
Several other communities plan joint services. Trinity Church in Manchester opens its doorsat 7:30 p.m. today as members of Immanuel Lutheran, St. Bartholomew's Catholic and the Alesia Free, Millers and Bixler Methodist churchesworship together, as they have done for several years in North Carroll.
The Rev. Dick Winters, pastor of Trinity, called the national holiday a time to show care, concern and offer thanks for the blessings bestowed on the country.
"The nation takes time to pause and express gratitude to the Creator for the gifts of life and freedom and for opportunities to labor," he said.
For the last three years, New Windsor and Union Bridge have celebrated the holiday together at St. Paul's Methodist Church, 200 Main St., New Windsor.
The 7:45 p.m. service follows the monthly Lions Club meeting. Community leaders take part, reading scripture lessons. Mayor James C. Carlisle of New Windsor will read President Bush's Thanksgiving proclamation. An offering will be sent to Shepherd's Staff, which provides services to the needy in the Westminster area.
"We feel good about the community response to our format," said the Rev. Darrell L. Layman. "The clergy organizes it, but the community runs it."
Westminster Baptist plans a traditional worship service at 7 p.m. today. The Rev. Larry Steensaid his theme, "As the Spirit Leads," will encourage members to testify why they are thankful.
At St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Sykesville, worshipers at Mass will hear readings in several languages, gospel songs and Spanish music. Wine and bread from several countrieswill be brought to the altar as gifts. After the service, the congregation is invited to taste the foods.
Susan Adams, pastoral associate for liturgy and music, said the church's Liturgy Commission develops a different theme each year for Thanksgiving. The church also hasan 8:30 a.m. Mass Thursday in the old church building on Main Street.
Members can bring food, destined for their own dinner tables, for a special blessing at St. John's Catholic Catholic Church in Westminster, where Mass will be celebrated at 9 a.m. Thursday. Each family also is asked to bring non-perishable food for the Carroll County Food Bank.
The Church of the Ascension, 23 N. Court St., Westminster,also plans a traditional service at 10 a.m. Thanksgiving Day.