Zoom chat on Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving looks a bit different this year.

The following guest sermon was submitted by ULC Minister Sean Davidson. All members of the ULC community are invited to contribute their own sermons for consideration/publication. To submit a sermon, please email it to sermons@themonastery.org.

In case you haven’t heard, Thanksgiving isn’t really a thing this year. 

In order to get the coronavirus under control, numerous U.S. governors have put in place stay-at-home orders, the most extreme of which ban gatherings with individuals outside your household. That means millions of people will be spending Thanksgiving alone, or with a roommate, instead of with their families.

And while some of us might consider it a blessing to have an excuse to avoid hearing Uncle Bob’s latest hot political takes (I know I will), most of us are understandably upset that Thanksgiving is de facto canceled this year - even if we recognize the shelter-in-place orders as necessary to limit the spread of the virus heading into a long winter.

But 400 years after the Pilgrims’ arrival at Plymouth Rock - and their own infectious diseases wiping out millions of Native Americans - I can't help but notice a dark sense of irony.

The Original Turkey Day

The first Thanksgiving took place in 1621 in Plymouth. It was in celebration of the Pilgrims first successful harvest, and lasted three days. Per Edward Winslow, an attendee of the first Thanksgiving, 90 Native Americans and 53 Pilgrims attended. 

Not much is known about the original harvest festival that came to be known as Thanksgiving, and most of what is known stems from Winslow's single primary text. What we do know is the headcount, and that the Native Americans in attendance were members of the Wampanoag tribe. The relationship between the Wampanoag tribespeople and the Pilgrims was brokered by Tisquantum, also known as Squanto, the last surviving member of the Patuxet, who had been otherwise completely wiped out by, you guessed it, disease. Tisquantum spoke flawless English due to his time in Europe, which he was brought to after being kidnapped and sold into slavery in Spain. As the Pilgrims had settled in Tisquantum’s former home, he was familiar with the land, taught the Pilgrims to plant corn and to fish, and established trade relationships between them and the Wampanoag nation.

And thus, the first Thanksgiving, a celebration on the Pilgrims’ part of a successful harvest and simply surviving the harsh New England winter, which took nearly half their numbers. And that meal is both familiar and different to our modern day turkey day spread - waterfowl, venison, lobster, pumpkin, nuts, berries, and squash were all on the table.

Thanksgiving is Canceled

Now, four centuries later, Thanksgiving is all but officially canceled this year. Blue state and red state governors alike are imploring their citizens to stay home and celebrate Thanksgiving with members of their household only. Some are going beyond asking, instituting statewide mandates banning indoor gatherings. Washington governor Jay Inslee, for example, announced sweeping restrictions on businesses and individuals ahead of the upcoming holiday, banning gathering with anyone outside your household unless all parties quarantine for two weeks and test negative for COVID-19.

The irony of a deadly virus, for which the population at-large has no immunity, ruining the Thanksgiving holiday is not lost on me.

Perhaps it is the repayment of a debt 400 years in the making.

“Novel infections did most of the dirty work of colonization,” says Elizabeth Fenn, a history professor at the University of Colorado Boulder. Indeed, Native American tribes were utterly devastated by disease brought by European colonizers and settlers, with scores of tribes getting wiped out at a rate upwards of 90%. Having never been exposed to diseases from Europe, they were essentially biologically defenseless.

There is much scholarly dispute over just how much credit to give disease, particularly smallpox and measles, in the slaughter of Native Americans. While 20th century analysis generally puts the figure at 70-90%, many modern historians tend to think that’s letting European colonizers off the hook for their often violent subjugation of native populations.

Still, the irony is rich. 400 years later, on what should be a celebration of family and community, many of us will be socially distanced, reduced to spending Thanksgiving on a Zoom call with our loved ones, instead of around the table.

I myself am foregoing Thanksgiving this year, and will be alone in a ~500 square foot studio apartment. It is not ideal. It is painful. I've cried over it. But it is necessary, so that I may have more Thanksgivings with my family in the future. Future joy is worth the hardships now.

Karma or Consequence?

Is it karma that the very descendants of the original Mayflower Pilgrims will be spending Thanksgiving desperately trying to avoid a deadly pandemic they lack immunity to and were woefully unprepared for?

Well, probably not. 

If anything, this upcoming holiday season, where millions will be spending Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years socially isolated, is the direct result of our collective societal sin of not masking up.

“The more people who wear a mask, the more the community is protected and therefore the more you individually benefit,” said Dr. John Brooks of the CDC’s COVID-19 response team. In fact, according to the CDC themselves, if we increased universal mask-wearing by just 15%, lockdowns would likely not even be necessary and we could reduce economic losses by $1 trillion.

And yet, even this has proved too tall an order for millions of Americans, whose strong resistance to doing the bare minimum to not potentially kill their friends and neighbors has cost 250,000 Americans their lives, with no end in sight.

We can blame the Pilgrims for yams at Thanksgiving (seriously, does anyone like those?), but not for our current situation.

This one’s on us.


  1. Alan S Corr's Avatar Alan S Corr

    Actually millions of people have traveled this thanksgiving. It hasn’t been canceled !

  1. Paul J. Fumero's Avatar Paul J. Fumero

    It not a cancelling. It id certainly different. With me it will be immediate family member only with the usual meal. Stay safe all. Its not worth the risk. There will be other Thanksgivings and Christmas.

  1. Larry Mager's Avatar Larry Mager

    After near fatal heart attacks on Christmas Day 2019 (a friend said that He thought I was "cooler than Jesus; He was resurrected only once") I won't go that far, but I am grateful that I was visiting my wife's Step mother when it happened in Her room. I am grateful that I was allowed to survive, and my wife, ( a retired nurse), knew what to do. It was a long hard slog to get better, but by the Grace of God, I survived. I always wear a mask when out and this Thanksgiving My Wife and I are having 3 guests, all of who live in the same apartment complex We live in. We all get Covid checked once a month so we know we are ok for tomorrow. Would I love to see all my kids and grandkids??? You bet. but I'm also grateful for their health as well. Say what You will about the recent election, but I am grateful our Democracy worked and that it had the highest turnout EVER in the history of our Country.

    Let's all be grateful for what We DO have!!!!!!! Happy Thanksgiving and Bright Blessings!

    1. joe's Avatar joe

      Glad to see such optimism when coronavirus and the last election are two big nails in the coffin of our country and our democracy.

      1. flugo's Avatar flugo

        Spot on!

  1. Thom's Avatar Thom

    People who live in many states are celebrating Thanksgiving like they usually do. We are doing it a bit different due to the zombie virus but, it is also because our son tested positive but shows no symptoms. He has been sequestered for 14 days but everyone feels better with us not being there. No problem, they won't get our fine cornbread dressing and deserts to enjoy.

    But, my brother-in/sister-in-laws are having her family over and that is about 20 people. Only 2 people are elderly and they are out and about on a regular basis and they have no fear of the virus. Everyone is from all over Texas. Most all have been tested and are clear. They are being safe and not passing around a virus 99.+% people are surviving. Granted, many are going to the hospital because the virus does flare up other conditions and some could be fatal. I won't get into anything else because I do feel for the many who have lost their loved ones because of the virus, I know it can be tough.

    But, many states are in a total lockdown ordered by the high command of the government. The government does not want them to have freedoms granted to the by the Constitution. But, since Biden has been elected, many of our rights will be altered by the group of Obama people he is bringing back into power. Actually, Biden is not the one to worry about, it is Harris who is scarier. I mean, even the liberal democrats threw her out in the beginning rounds of the election but, had to bring her back to blow joe and get him going. Well, the payoffs will be great for rigging an election to get them in there. I know, go ahead and make your statements but, we will end up with a bogus president and a woman who is a perfect example of how you can blow your way to the top.

    But, as for states being locked down and canceling Thanksgiving, this is just the beginning. When Joes gets in, even though Trump and his administration do have a vaccine ready to go, they will make sure our country is locked down and masks made mandatory very quickly. They will also make sure you will have to become dependent on the government for your daily needs. So, this is just an example of what will be happening. Enjoy those right you have now because they are slowly going to be taken away and you will accept it just as you have accepted thinking wearing a mask is protecting you from this virus.

    I went on a rant and I know it. I look forward to the comments but don't worry, I won't be replying because there is no need. If you are happy Biden "won", know you helped support a bogus president and a party who stole the election. But, you should pray in 2 years we have a conservative house and senate so they may block anything Harris tries to pass through in her administration, you see Biden will be out by the from his onset of dementia.

  1. Ealdormon Piparskeggr Robinson's Avatar Ealdormon Piparskeggr Robinson

    I'll not be canceling Thanks Giving this year. 26 November 2020 will make 2,004 post surgery for pancreatic cancer, with no evidence of disease since the surgery.

    My wife and I will have dinner with my next door neighbor, who has become a good friend over the years, plus his companion and her children.

  1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

    Is this a holiday for giving thanks? Or remembering the Christian immigrants the Native American's fed for three days in coming years steal their land and hunt them down and kill them? Native American's have nothing to be thankful for on this day, for them it is it's a day of mourning Nearly 400 years of killing their people and stealing their land which still continues to this day. If you are while, black or brown Christian this should be a day of helping the the people we killed to be able to celebrate this day.

  1. Minister Mike's Avatar Minister Mike

    I checked more than a dozen calendars and each of them indicate Thanksgiving is today, so is a real thing this year. Thursday is recyclable pick-up day unless it's a holiday. The collectors won't be here until tomorrow, so that is more evidence it's a real thing this year. My bride of 40+ years and I will be celebrating Thanksgiving today, too. So, yeah, it's a real thing.

  1. John P Maher's Avatar John P Maher


  1. Woodrow's Avatar Woodrow

    What the Governors are doing is unconstitutional. They basically are calling themselves kings over their states.

  1. Asa William Sprague, II's Avatar Asa William Sprague, II

    I like yams.

  1. John P Maher's Avatar John P Maher


  1. Minister Carlos Ricardo Walls's Avatar Minister Carlos Ricardo Walls

    Please use common sense.Social distancing,keep it small and wear mask.

  1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

    I just told Gov DeWine to go sit on a sharp object and slide downhill. I am NOT going to give up my family for some twit with delusions of grandure. He already was told that the State Assembly here has passed a bill that bans him or the head of the State health Department from making any "stay at home" orders or closing bars or restaurants. Under Article 1 Section 1 of the US Constitution, the ONLY people who can make a law or give weight of law to anything is the US Congress and the State Assemblies. And the Ohio Constitution also mirrors that. That being said any directive from him or the health department is classified as unenforceable. DeWine has threatened to veto the bill but thats just whistling past the graveyard as there are 60 more people in the House that will be needed to overturn the veto and 28 people in the Senate that is more then enough needed to overturn the veto, so its a fait de complet and DeWine knows it. And at last count Coumo (NY)-Newsome (CA)-Whitmer (MI)-Kate Brown (Oregon)-Inslee (Washington State) and a few other Democrat Gov and a few Rep Govs...DeWine (Oh) all either have had impeachment proceedings set against them or they have been slapped down by the State Supreme Courts for overstepping their authority. I dont know whats in the water but these people could be the nicest people in the world until they get elected and are given some power and then they go batcrap crazy!

  1. Rev. Jonathan Peebles's Avatar Rev. Jonathan Peebles

    Karma but never enough for stealing the natives land, enslaving them, considering them a minority when this is there land NOT OURS and what do we do? We use this day to be thankful for what we have in which we stole? No I am not thankful today not to mention I am a vegetarian so I could care less about the feast. Besides Trump and his republicans kind of ruined this country and took everything good away so what is to be thankful for especially with this virus?

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