Tomorrow - Saturday, 29th May - marks the inaugural National Day of Thanksgiving, an ambitious project which aims to encourage all Australians to give thanks to God and each other.

Thousands of people will be taking part in around 200 significant events, such as prayer breakfasts, across the country at which church leaders will be praying for government leaders at a local, state and federal level. 

Thanksgiving

 

"We’re seeing this as an opportunity to promote our Christian heritage and to promote Christian values and to get the church to take the lead in that: in other words, to give them a positive opportunity to reconnect with the community in something which the community will understand and the church feels comfortable about.”

- Brian Pickering.

There are also expected to be hundreds and possibly even thousands of other smaller activities such as thanksgiving day celebration services and family fun days at churches.

“We also expect...there will be people inviting their neighbors in for morning tea to say thanks to them, bosses having a morning tea to say thanks to their employees, families having reunions,” says Brian Pickering, who is co-ordinating the day. “So there’s a whole raft of other creative ideas that are going around.”

Pickering, who is the national co-ordinator of the Australian Prayer Network - an interdenominational network of some 4,000 churches and groups who pray for Australia, says the idea grew out of the desire of people who were praying for Australia to join in celebration of a national day of prayer.

“Over the years, people have written to me asking why doesn’t Australia have a national day of prayer...” he says.

“So we discussed it among ourselves - people within the prayer movement...and we took the step of talking to church leaders. That’s where the concept of the national day of thanksgiving rather than prayer came about.”

Pickering says it was decided to base the day around the Biblical concept of thanksgiving to encourage both Christians and non-Christians to join together in giving thanks.

“Whether they’re Christian or not they can be involved in the day because it’s got two aspects to it: one is thanking God and the other aspect is thanking each other.”

The day was officially launched in February this year at a reception attended by the Governor-General, Michael Jeffery.

In a speech given at the ceremony, Major General Jeffery commended the church, prayer and other groups for their “potentially inspired vision” in bringing about the day.

“It’s worth noting that faith in God has been an important establishing and unifying principle for our nation,” he told those gathered.

“It’s no accident that the preamble of Australia’s Constitution contains the words: ‘humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God’.”

He said that in an age when the pace of life was accelerating, it was easy to forget to “simply give thanks”.

“So the Day of Thanksgiving will remind us of the value of praise and of expressing appreciation and gratitude - be it to our God or humankind.”

The day has also won the endorsement of the Prime Minister, John Howard, who in a statement said that the day will be one on which “we can give thanks for the many blessings we have as a nation and a people”.

As well as the events being held to celebrate the say, Pickering says that between 70,000 to 80,000 “Thanksgiving Day” cards have been sold in the last five weeks.

He says that the Pentecost weekend was chosen for the event initially because other important days on the Christian calendar - such as Christmas and Easter - were “well and truly taken up”.

“Then, of course, we realised that it was on Pentecost weekend 398 years ago that the great declaration of the Great Southland of the Holy Spirit was made on the shores of Vanuatu,” he says, referring to an incident on 14 May, 1606 when the explorer De Quiros declared the islands of the South Pacific - including the as yet undiscovered land of Australia - “Terra Australis del Espirtu Santo” or “The Southern Land of the Holy Spirit”.

Pickering is hopeful the National Day of Thanksgiving will become an annual event.

“We are trying to wake the church up. We sort of feel that the church has retreated away from society in general and it’s gone back into its cell and lost contact with the community that it’s trying to minister to.

“So we’re seeing this as an opportunity to promote our Christian heritage and to promote Christian values and to get the church to take the lead in that: in other words, to give them a positive opportunity to reconnect with the community in something which the community will understand and the church feels comfortable about.”

www.thanksgiving.org.au