from Bishop Larry M. Goodpaster
Thanksgiving Day cannot come soon enough! Perhaps as much this year as any year, we all need to take some time to step away from the tragic events that flood our news outlets and reconnect with and reclaim a spirit of gratitude. Gratitude opens the way for a recognition and acknowledgement of God’s gracious gift of all of creation, and of life and hope in Jesus Christ overcoming any hint of fear or suspicion.
Over the last half-century our national holiday of Thanksgiving evolved, first, into the launching pad for the end-of-the-year buying spree marked by special sales at midnight. Then, not satisfied, suddenly the sales started late Thursday afternoon, and now are extended for an entire month. For many people there is not enough time to clean the dishes let alone to be thankful for what we have; we are too busy planning our shopping attack. It is as if we do not have enough already, and that we must get more things in order to be happy and therefore thankful. Little wonder, then, that in a world dominated by reports of terrorism, we struggle to find reasons to be thankful. Will our week be overshadowed by fear instead of thanks? How shall we live in these days when there seems only endless cycle of hatred, violence, distrust, and greed?
On Monday, November 16, Seth Godin’s blog provided a link to a specially prepared Thanksgiving Reader
that included stories, quotes, and reflections on giving thanks. Two in particular struck me. The first comes from American author Melody Beattie: “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity.”
She reminds me that thanksgiving is not about a specific day, or a national holiday, but more a spirit that permeates everything about our life and living. It puts everything into a holy perspective, teaching us to know when enough really is enough and that more stuff will not add to our joy in living.
The other quote is one I have carried with me and cited often over my years of ministry. It comes to us from Tecumseh (1768-1813), the Native American leader of the Shawnee: “When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.”
As I count all the reasons for which I am grateful this year, I start with the relationships and gifts that most of us would name with Tecumseh: life, light, food, family, health and strength. This year, I am including in my list special thanks for the blessings of being given the opportunity to serve God in this wonderful place called the Western North Carolina Conference; for the many creative and courageous acts of God-inspired mercy and kindness exhibited through our churches; and for the privilege of serving Christ in this incredible moment of history with an amazing group of people (lay and clergy) who continually inspire and encourage me.
This year it is my hope that we will all pause long enough in the midst of everything that swirls around us to cultivate the spirit of gratitude that will make a difference in our lives, our attitudes, and our behavior. Let us spend this Thanksgiving week remembering and practicing the words of the Apostle Paul: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, giving thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Resources for Vital Congregations
Lewis Center for Church Leadership
Lewis Center for Church Leadership: Books
Lewis Center for Church Leadership: Serve Your Neighbor
GBHEM Leadership Resources
Living Faithfully: Human Sexuality and the United Methodist Church
Englewood Book Review
Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations
Ted Talks: The Golden Circle
Ted Talks: The Power of Vulnerability
Ted Talks: The Price of Invulnerability
Meditations on the Ministry of All Christians
Be A Disciple
A Disciple’s Path; A Guide for United Methodist
Lewis Center for Church Leadership: Adult Christian Studies from the Wesley Ministry Network
Traveling Together: A Guide for Disciple Forming Congregations
Living As United Methodist Christians
Methodist Doctrine: The Essentials
Reclaiming our Wesleyan Tradition: John Wesley’s Sermons for Today
John Wesley Sermons: Anthology
Get Their Name
Evangelism & Theology in the Wesleyan Spirit
Canoeing the Mountains
Fresh Expressions: Dinner Church
Lewis Center for Church Leadership: Reach New Disciples
Lewis Center for Church Leadership: 50 Ways to Reach People
Community: The Structure of Belonging
RESOURCES TO CONNECT WITH THE COMMUNITY:
Institute for Emerging Issues
Congregations 4 Children
The Royce and Jane Reynolds Ministry Fund Grants
The Duke Endowment
The Appalachian District Church Vitality Team has been prayerfully seeking ways to help support you and the ministries of your local congregation during this COVID-19 pandemic. Together they have diligently researched and connected with others throughout the conference and our denomination to identify resources and offer them to you. We hope they will be helpful to you and bless you greatly in leading your churches and communities through this unprecedented time. We are very grateful to the District Vitality Team and other contributors for their great work on this resource.
This faithful team has created three documents, two of which you are receiving today. They include:
- Family Home Worship – designed to help families establish a regular worship space within their homes as well as a time where they can worship together.
- Tech Strategies – to help guide you in selecting effective tools and resources within your budget to best communicate in the digital world.
We believe these resources will be of great benefit to you. Also know that the District Vitality Team is available to answer any questions you might have in regards to the documents attached. If you have questions, you may email Rev. Howard Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org.