Hearty helpings for the heart and spirit in Amherst

AMHERST – We modern Americans harbor less concern for a bountiful harvest each Thanksgiving than the Pilgrims did, since we have access to supermarkets and microwaveable meals.

But, the most important crop to reap has no place on a plate or bowl. It is the love that grows within friends and family that provides nourishment for something much deeper than the usual appetite.

The Congregational Church of Amherst continued its tradition of familial and spiritual togetherness on Sunday, Nov. 24, at the annual Thanksgiving dinner. Families within this faithful gathering have come together for more than 25 years to share meals and thanks for the many blessings given throughout the year.

It is a chance to come together as a community before going off to celebrate the holiday with their own families later in the week. The men spend their Sunday preparing the common Thanksgiving staples such as turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and, of course, gravy. The church’s Middle High Youth Group lends a hand with the pies while everyone else enjoys the evening.

Coordinator Bruce Kinney looked over the gathering of his “extended family” that day as they joined together within the church.

“It is just an opportunity to come together in a place that’s not Sunday morning worship,” he said as servers rushed food past him. “We can just enjoy everyone’s company and get to know each other a little better.”

Head cook and founder of this annual gathering, Mark Baddeley, frantically poured gravy into bowls as churchgoers filed into their tables. He has seen this day grow into a tradition within their faith that brings an enriching experience each year.

“It is a time for us to remember that we are incredibly blessed and a reminder for us to be thankful of all of things we have and each other,” he said.

Each family brings their own vegetable dish to not only add to the culinary delights of the evening, but to share their own personal traditions with those around them. Vicky Leknes brought her family’s sweet potato recipe this year alongside the other side dishes of the evening.

“This is a great tradition for our church,” said Leknes after passing a plate down the table. “It brings more of our family time to the church and is a lovely time to strengthen the fellowship of our church.”

This special Sunday in a quiet corner of New Hampshire brings with it a few more moments of sharing, family and appreciation for all the things we may take for granted each day.

Turkey eagerly traveled down the table, trailed by other delicious items to choose from. These single dishes are passed up and down, but with each is carried the love of family brought together by the most filling helping of them all: faith.