BY LAUREN HENRY
"Welcome to this special time of thanksgiving," the Rev. Martha Beamer, pastor of the Cherokee Circuit of United Methodist Churches, greeted attendees at the annual Community Thanksgiving Service on Monday evening.
Greeneville Seventh-day Adventist Church hosted the one-hour worship service that attracted a small congregation to mark the nation's season of thanks, leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday.
The event, sponsored by the Greeneville-Greene County Ministerial Association, included the collection of an offering to benefit both the Greeneville-Greene County Community Ministries Food Bank and Opportunity House.
Those attending the service were also urged to bring food items for the Food Bank such as canned goods.
THANKFUL 'FOR PEOPLE CARING'
Danny Ricker, director of the Opportunity House, shared the purpose of the evening's offering.
"Give thanks tonight for people caring," he said.
Ricker said he enjoys his ministry with the Opportunity House, which is a temporary homeless shelter that was established by the Ministerial Association to provide assistance to families and individuals who find themselves in the midst of difficult and trying circumstances.
"It is good to see people that are down be lifted up," Ricker said.
VARIETY OF LEADERS
Prior to the offering, the Rev. Dr. Dan Donaldson, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, led a responsive reading of the Thanksgiving Litany, which guides the worshipper in the prayer of thanksgiving.
The Rev. Jan Leffers, chaplain at Takoma Regional Hospital, led the congregation in prayer following the offering and read from Deuteronomy 26:1-11.
The Rev. Jeremy Arnall, pastor of the Greeneville Seventh-Day Adventist Church, read Psalm 100 responsively with the congregation.
The Rev. James R. Fain, pastor of Pine Grove and Hartman's Chapel United Methodist churches, followed with a reading of Philippians 4:4-9.
The Tusculum College Community Chorus, led by David Hendricksen and accompanied by Jim Winfree, sang "See What Love."
'TWO TYPES OF BLESSINGS'
The Rev. Sam Puckett, chaplain of Holston United Methodist Home for Children, gave the message titled "Blessing and More Blessing."
"There are two types of blessings," Puckett said.
Psalm 145 provided the text for his sermon, where he outlined both universal blessings and blessings that are dependent on the response of individuals.
"There are universal blessings poured out on all," he said, such as God's grace and mercy, and His righteousness and goodness.
But Puckett went on to say that, if one wishes to be blessed abundantly beyond experiencing the universal blessings of God, then conditions are introduced.
"If we look to God, He will raise us up," Puckett read from a contemporary version of the Psalms.
"If you love Him, He will fulfill the desires of your heart," he summarized.
God can only bestow certain blessings when conditions are met, he said, adding, "God, make us thankful the way we should be," Puckett prayed.
Earlier in the sermon, he encouraged those present to be thankful despite the current divided and conflict-ridden state of America.
After outlining the roots and history of the holiday of Thanksgiving, Puckett said, "Now we come to celebrate in 2012 in the midst of conflict and disunity."
He used the recent elections as an example of division, but said he remained optimistic.
"This is a blessed country," Puckett said. "If there is ever a time to ask for God...it is now."
REMEMBERS RUSSIAN STUDENT
Once a missionary in Russia teaching English to university students, Puckett closed the service with a story about his friendship with one Russian student.
Puckett said the young man had little, but was the most thankful man he knew.
The Holston Home chaplain said he will always remember the young man for his characteristic, consistent statements that "I give thanks for God for..."
Puckett repeated the phrase in Russian three times.
He recalled that, wherever he went with the Russian, the young man remained always in a grateful spirit, and always thanking God for blessings.