Editors note: We are constantly asked how did the National Day of Thanksgiving begin and what is the vision for it. The following fact sheet answers those questions and may be useful for Churches to publish in the weekly news sheet.
The concept of a National Day of Thanksgiving has been in the hearts of many Australians for a number of years. Over the last decade many people have expressed a desire to see our nation, on one day each year, acknowledge our Christian heritage and the lordship of Jesus Christ over our nation.
In 2003 the Australian Prayer Network took such thoughts and dreams to other national prayer, ministry, and church leaders. Overwhelming encouragement to pursue the concept was received. Out of these consultations was birthed our National Day of Thanksgiving. The Governor General embraced the idea and launched the concept at an official function at Government House on 11th February 2004. The Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition then gave it their full support with statements encouraging all Australians to celebrate the Day. Christian television and radio embraced it, and have become promotional sponsors across Australia.
There needs however to be a vehicle through which the vision can be expressed, and we believe that vehicle must be the Christian Church. If the Church does not accept this role, then the National Day of Thanksgiving will be lost forever for our nation, as the ethos of the day cannot be picked up by any other group within the nation.
The preamble of Australia’s constitution says, “Humbly relying on the blessings of Almighty God.” National Day of Thanksgiving gives expression to these words found in our constitution. Even the words of our national anthem, “Our land abounds in nature’s gifts of beauty rich and rare,” give inspiration for this day.
The National Day of Thanksgiving is meant to be shaped and run at a local level in communities across Australia. Local churches can give leadership, and can with the support of their community organise celebrations appropriate to their town, city or region. The National Day of Thanksgiving will therefore be expressed differently in each part of the Nation.
It is however also a day that can be picked up and celebrated by individuals who through the giving of cards, ribbons, or by doing an act of kindness to a friend or neighbour can be the vehicle of God’s love and compassion to those around them.
National Day of Thanksgiving will be what you make it. It is an opportunity not an event. It provides great opportunity for congregations and individuals to connect in a positive and affirming way with the community they seek to serve and those they meet in everyday life. It can be a doorway to effective evangelism and mission if used creatively.
Perhaps it is the opportunity you or your Church has been waiting years for, to display to the nation what we as Christians stand for, rather than what we stand against. Will it be celebrated in your community? That is entirely in your hands.
One of the strengths of the National Day of Thanksgiving is the creativity that is released in people and congregations as they plan the events in which they will be involved to celebrate the NDOT.
We went back through our files to pick out some of the different initiatives that have been undertaken in past years which we want to share with you to inspire even more creative thinking as to how you may celebrate the day in your community.
* The Churches in one community decided that they wanted to honour the residents of a large Retirement Village in their community which houses some650 residents, most of whom were grandparents who were being honoured that year. The Management of this Village had been hostile towards the Church, denying any access for the holding of worship services etc for the residents. When the Churches asked however for permission to hold a “thanksgiving morning tea” for the residents, after some initial hesitation that it may be an underhand way of getting in to hold a service, management opened the door and welcomed and facilitated the visit by the Churches.
So the Churches planned a concert including items by pupils from a local school, a formal Thank You Ceremony with short speeches from the Council and Combined Churches representatives, a prayer of blessing followed by a morning tea. Now tea/coffee, scones, jam and cream for up to 650 residents requires some planning, so the local Churches pooled their resources and released their best cooks to fill the bill.
* In another initiative, rather than opt out of the NDOT because of a clash with the “Red Shield Appeal Collection Day” one group of voluntary collectors combined Red Shield Day with the NDOT by giving a “Thank You” stick on badge to every person who gave a donation to the Red Shield Appeal that day. Go the Salvo’s!!!
* More and more Churches are undertaking acts of kindness to the more needy in their community. The more creative of them are forming teams which will not only do odd jobs required around the house but will also sit down and talk with the residents as a means of forming lasting relationships with them. In larger communities prayer teams are being formed to pray for needs phoned in from the field as the practical and visitation teams do their rounds throughout the day.
* A Christian radio station held a Pastors and Ministry Leaders Appreciation Breakfast to say “Thank You” to those in Christian ministry in their community. Not a bad way of also promoting the radio station to the Christian community. Good thinking on the part of the management of that Station!!!
* One Church visited building sites in their community with a cold can of coke and a mars bar to say “thank you” to all the “tradies” working on the sites. Hope none of them fall off their scaffolding in shock that the Church would honour them in that way!!!
* The Chaplain in one of our Jails encouraged prisoners to remember their families and friends who had stood by them during the period of their incarceration by saying “Thank You” to them by way of a card or ribbon. He also got some of them to go one step further and say “Thank You” to their warders. Wouldn’t you have liked to have been a fly on the wall to see the faces of the warders when that happened!!!
NOW IS THE TIME TO ORGANISE YOUR BREAKFASTS AND MORNING TEAS
Holding community breakfasts on Saturday 30th May to say thank you to those being honoured this year is a very public and important way for the Church to show leadership in your community. If taking this course be sure to also invite your Mayor, Local Councillors, and local Federal and State Members of Parliament and leaders of community organisations.
Morning teas are the best method of saying “Thank You” within the workplace. They are usually held in the week leading up to the NDOT after obtaining permission from the head of the organisation you are honouring. These are much less formal than breakfasts and are the best way of showing the Churches appreciation for those engaged at the coal face of serving and caring for the local community. Don’t forget to order your “Thank You” ribbons to pin on those you are thanking and “NDOT Stick-on Badges” to be worn by those from your Church or group doing the thanking.
Let us make an impact on our nation this NDOT by leaving no stone unturned to show our communities the love, compassion and care of Jesus as expressed through His people.