For God and Country

What Sleepy Hollow, New York, is to Halloween; what the North Pole is to Christmas; Hingham, Massachusetts, is to the Fourth of July. This place is crazy for Independence Day.

I woke up this morning to go out for a run and noticed the lines running down the middle of Main Street had been painted red, white, and blue. And I haven’t seen this much bunting since Felix Milan played for the Mets. To top it off a parishioner has a house on Main Street that is completely covered by an American Flag. By this I mean that there is a giant flag covering the entire front of the house — you can’t see the front door or the windows. It looks like those giant tents they used to put over houses when the exterminator came through. Except more patriotic.

Flag-draped house on Main Street.

While everyone knows that the Fourth of July commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Independence, you might not be aware that Independence Day is listed in the Episcopal Church calendar as a “Major Feast” day. This was not always the case. The General Convention of 1785 proposed “A Form of Prayer and Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the Inestimable Blessings of Religious and Civil Liberty” to be used on the Fourth of July. It was ultimately voted down due to the large number of Loyalist clergy and did not appear in the first American Prayer Book of 1789. Independence Day readings first appeared in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer but the day did not become a “Major Feast” until the current Prayer Book revision of 1979 — 203 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence!

Main Street in Hingham

Another little-known feature of the BCP is a litany of “Thanksgiving for the Nation.” As part of your devotion to “God and Country” on the Fourth of July, I encourage you to work this in. Hey, it’s a Sunday after all.

Almighty God, giver of all good things: We thank you for the natural majesty and beauty of this land. They restore us, though we often destroy them.
Heal us. 

We thank you for the great resources of this nation. They make us rich, though we often exploit them.
Forgive us.
   We thank you for the torch of liberty which has been lit in this land. It has drawn people from every nation, though we have often hidden from its light.
Enlighten us.

We thank you for the faith we have inherited in all its rich variety. It sustains our life, though we have been faithless
again and again.
Renew us.

Help us, O Lord, to finish the good work here begun. Strengthen our efforts to blot out ignorance and prejudice, and to abolish poverty and crime. And hasten the day when all our people, with many voices in one united chorus, will glorify your holy Name. Amen.

We thank you for the men and women who have made this country strong. They are models for us, though we often fall short of them.
Inspire us.


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