By Rev. Dr. Duro Ayanrinola; General Secretary, AABF
In the Nigerian Baptist Convention (NBC), Annual Thanksgiving is a tradition that is observed the first Sunday in the month of November. Two possibilities have been set forth for the origin of the Annual Thanksgiving in the Nigerian Baptist Convention – the first suggestion was in connection with American history. In America, Thanksgiving is a historical, national and religious holiday that began with the Pilgrims. In 1621 after a bitter winter, Governor William Bradford of Plymouth Colony declared a thanksgiving proclamation in appreciation of their survival. Thanksgiving, therefore, could be regarded as an American celebration that was observed on African soil and later finds its way into church calendar.
The second possibility was that between 1869 and 1875 when American missionaries were absent from the field in Nigeria, one Mrs. Sarah M. Harden was the key leader of the Baptist group in Lagos. She was from an Anglican background. It was during this time that the Anglican version of thanksgiving “harvest” and some “episcopal-type characteristics” were injected into Baptist practices.
Tracing the origin of Annual Thanksgiving is not the subject of this writing. Rather, is to invite you to do what David did, reflecting on God’s faithfulness; and to challenge you to cultivate a grateful heart. It is believed that David wrote Psalm 103 later in his years when he had a keener sense of sin, God’s grace of forgiveness and other unmerited blessings God lavished on him. It is a Psalm inviting readers to praise the Lord and never to forget all His blessings. It is a Psalm of praise and adoration. Praise is an attitude, which should be a lifestyle of any believer. It should flow from the heart to God. Personally, I do not believe we should wait until November before we offer our sacrifice of praise to God. Praise should be part of our daily worship to God, express during the quiet time or spontaneously in the course of the day.
As Baptists in Africa, no matter what your practice or tradition is in your church, convention or union, I want you to take a break, to think and consider what God has done. You will have many reasons to praise God. David was careful in enumerating few things that he felt only God did. For instance, David thanked God for
· Forgiveness of sin
· Healing from all kinds of diseases
· Redemption etc.
In spite of insurgencies, economic recession, terrorism, war, famine, political instability and other woes, the Lord has been faithful in preserving and blessing us. Like David, I invite you to praise the Lord and forget not all His blessings: on yourself, family, business, extended family members, your church, your country and others. In spite of all that you have gone through; sickness, loss of loved ones, job, and precious properties, you will still be able to say, ”For His mercies endure forever.”