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Keene church to hold Colonial Thanksgiving service Sunday

Union Leader Correspondent

November 20. 2013 6:24PM
Members of United Church of Christ in Keene, from left, Marlene Baldwin, Chris Cornell, and Gordon and Diane Ellis display the period costumes they'll wear during a colonial Thanksgiving service on Sunday. (COURTESY)

KEENE — The United Church of Christ is planning a traditional Thanksgiving service for Sunday at 10 a.m. in celebration of the congregation's 275th anniversary.

A Colonial Thanksgiving service will take the church back to its worship roots, said United Church of Christ Rev. Gordon E. Ellis.

The church service has been designed to capture the era between Pilgrim times and 1738, when the church was first established in Keene. The current church building that sits in Central Square is only 225 years old, Ellis said.

Ellis said he plans to don bloomer-type pants and a powdered wig, for his part.

"I'll actually be wearing a wig because one of our early pastors wore a powdered wig, a George Washington wig," he said.

Many other members of the congregation will be in period dress thanks to church member Marlene Baldwin, who is organizing the costumes and working with the Cheshire County Historical Society and local schools to borrow historical clothing and theatrical costumes, Ellis said.

The service is planned to start at 10 a.m., but the congregation is gathering about 10 minutes before that in Central Square for a procession into the church led by a drummer boy, church ministers, deacon, Keene Mayor Kendall Lane and the Tithing Man carrying the Bible.

Inside the church, as was the tradition when the congregation was founded, men will sit on one side, women on the other, and children will sit in the balcony.

The service will start with a proclamation from the city read by Lane, Ellis said.

The children are excited because the Tithing Man will sit with them in the balcony. The Tithing Man would carry a stick with a "bonger on one end and a feather on the other, '' Ellis said.

"Then he'd walk around the church and make sure everybody stays awake," Ellis said.

The church was established this time of year in 1938, Ellis said.

With the service, he is trying to capture as many aspects of those early services as possible from community offerings, from the head of households that wouldn't necessarily be money but could also be eggs or produce for those in need to public censures, and the giving of punishments to church members called out in the service for their behavior.

All hymns will be song a cappella and led by a chanter.

"They wouldn't have musical instruments. The organ was considered the devil's bagpipes," Ellis said.

"I thought it would be fun and also bring to life to what life was like in those days for worshipers," Ellis said.

There is one tradition the service will not follow, which is the lengthy prayers and sermons. The service will be at a modern length of about an hour, he said.

"We are not going back to having an eight-hour service,'' he said.

The church service will be followed by a fellowship hour in which "tavern desserts" traditional to the time period. will be served.

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