So I had to look it up. What is the difference between being thankful and being grateful? My quick google research says being grateful is appreciating what you have. This is a most excellent pandemic practice in a society that continues to stress the need for bigger, better and of course newer...and did I mention you can have it all with a few keystrokes?
Thankful acknowledges what you have been given. Thankful encourages thinking of others. Google writers say it improves mental health and boosts self-esteem. Thankfulness involves empathy, an emotion that seems to be sorely lacking in 21st century America.
Theologians say we mortals are ultimately thankful to God, who provides it all, well all we need. One of our jobs as the recipient, is to give thanks. Thanks, with words and deeds. Church of course offers an opportunity to do both, to sing hymns of praise and thanks and, to walk the walk as we pledge our sponsorship of church and support of so many people we will never meet with the Alternative Gift Fair, or the youth sleep out.
Long, long ago at a church not that far away, a pastor I followed said Thanksgiving was his favorite holiday because it was everything Christmas was not. Not commercialized, not promoted months is advance, not about costly gifts purchased after a frenzy of shopping. And recently, a holiday hardly even mentioned at the grocery store.
Thanksgiving is about family. Family traditions, be it food, activities or stories. Too much to eat and too much to clean up in the kitchen, but a time of togetherness. A day to remember blessings and give thanks.
But then there is this year, COVID- tide as Hal says. A year of, well maybe not so much. Who will be at your table this year? Who is missing because of travel restrictions, hospitalization or death? Will you create multiple dishes and pies for one or two at the table? Will you haul the Christmas tree out if the family isn’t home to decorate it?
This year will be different.
But we still have reasons to be thankful. I’ll ask you to list a couple right now. I can list the election being over. A vaccine does seem to be on the way. Now, perhaps a thankfulness walk is in order. Can you remember something from each month for which you are thankful? What prompts do you see on your walk? Be thankful to have a safe place to walk, to be able to walk.
Are you Zooming with family? Maybe you-or the kids-want to dress up. Can you dress like a Pilgrim, or a turkey? Will your family dance like no one is watching?
Who will share memories of a first Thanksgiving? First with the new house, spouse, or the new baby? Share your family stories. Get out the photos. I’m happy to share a picture from a Plymouth member who sadly remain nameless so my missive can go out on Facebook. Let the little children lead us!
Perhaps you’ll share the blessing below from Rowsofsharon.com:
“Lord, some people have food and no friends.
Some people have friends and no food.
We thank you that today we have both. Amen.”
Look for the things you are thankful for this year, and do keep the faith.
Tricia is returning to the interim position she held between Plymouth directors Sarah Wernsing and Mandy Hall. After leaving the Plymouth staff, she served as director of Children’s Ministries at St. Luke’s Episcopal for four years. Read more.
Weeping may tarry in the evening, but joy comes in the morning.
Recently I read a mental health article about hope and while I found it helpful, I also found myself resisting it. “Why,” I asked myself? I remembered the words of the ancient psalmist. Even they did not soothe my uneasiness. Then I remembered the times when in my life when words of hope, however well-meaning felt like fingernails grating on a blackboard. The time when I didn’t know if I could trust that “joy would come in the morning,” when that sentiment from the psalms seemed trite and unfeeling. Times when I wondered if I was the only one who could not trust those words.
We live in a time when hope can be very tough. The isolation of pandemic and the divisiveness of our country is taking a toll on even the most stalwart and the cheery personalities.
There is community and help at Plymouth!!
There is no shame in needing professional mental health help. Let me say that again… There is no shame in needing professional mental health help. For those who struggle with any kind of mental illness - from mild, situational depression and anxiety to more serious illnesses, hope can seem like a pie-in-the-sky solutions. Even in the midst of the best medication and the best mental health treatment that we can offer in the 21st century – and we have made many strides in this area – hope can seem futile or non-existent to those who are in the midst of mental illness or are gripped by the disease of addiction. If you or someone you know and/or love needs help coping in these tough times, please call one of your pastors! Or email us! We are here for you. You will find our numbers and our emails at the end of this reflection.
In the shorter days and longer nights of this time of year – especially this year – find some small rituals to lift your spirits….as small as:
This is the time to be slow,
Lie low to the wall
Until the bitter weather passes.
Try, as best you can, not to let
The wire brush of doubt
Scrape from your heart
All sense of yourself
And your hesitant light.
If you remain generous,
Time will come good;
And you will find your feet
Again on fresh pastures of promise,
Where the air will be kind
And blushed with beginning.
With you on this longer-than-we-would-like journey,
Hal Chorpenning – email@example.com; 970-481-2928
Carla Cain – firstname.lastname@example.org; 515-418-7444
Jane Anne Ferguson – email@example.com; 303-257-4933
Online Mental Health Resources:
Interfaith Network on Mental Illness – online programs and a good weekly newsletter
Symptoms of Depression from WebMD
Suicide Prevention; National Suicide Hotline; Larimer County Suicide Prevention (Colorado Crisis Support 1-844-493-8255 or text HOME to 741741)
The Rev. Jane Anne Ferguson, Associate Minister, is a writer, storyteller, and contributor to Feasting on the Word, a popular biblical commentary. She is also the writer of sermon-stories.com, a lectionary-based story-commentary series. Read more
Earlier this month, I had the wonderful opportunity for several days of retreat at the Sacred Heart Retreat House in Sedalia, just south of Highlands Ranch. An important component of the retreat was meeting daily with a spiritual director, a guide who helped me reflect on where God is calling me in my life and in my ministry. It’s a practice I recommend for anyone! Some of what came up with was feeling God’s call to lean more into teaching and retreat leadership at Plymouth…even a virtual pilgrimage!…to keep a Sabbath day each week.…to make time for working on my physical health and stress and for family.
And I’ve stepped back into the whirlwind of life at Plymouth, which hasn’t slowed down a bit…though I hope my approach has shifted. It’s about listening to where God is leading, rather than just what seems urgent.
One of the ways I hope you will join me in trying to listen to God — in dreams, in whispers, in hints from other people, in creation — is in discerning our common path in the coming years. Where is God calling us? Who is our neighbor? How can we be part of addressing systemic social justice issues and in healing our nation? As I said Sunday morning, we are uniquely positioned as a congregation to do things others cannot.
We have a great Strategic Planning Team, created and called by our Leadership Council. Heather Siegel (chair), Judy Barth, Larry McCulloch, Nic Redavid, Marilyn Votaw, Jackie Wray, and I comprise the team. We’re working with John Wimberly as our consultant, and we are going to start by listening…and we’re going to do that by asking you to listen for where God is calling us.
This week you will receive a three-question survey (well, four, actually…but one of them is your name). That is the first way we’ll listen to you. And we’ll keep listening through online focus groups and a retreat with our Leadership Council. Please fill out the survey before November 25, so we can hear your dreams and visions for our congregation!
I also want to invite you to a retreat this coming Saturday with Eric Elnes, a UCC minister who will guide us through an interactive exploration to discover what we can learn from the difficult time (the “dark wood” is Dante’s phrase) we are in. Eric is our visiting scholar this year, and I hope you join me on Saturday. You can sign up now at plymouthucc.org/visitingscholar.
Even in the midst of a pandemic, great things continue to happen here at Plymouth. Thanks for your support and for being a part of this congregation!
The Rev. Hal Chorpenning has been Plymouth's senior minister since 2002. Before that, he was associate conference minister with the Connecticut Conference of the UCC. A grant from the Lilly Endowment enabled him to study Celtic Christianity in the UK and Ireland. Prior to ordained ministry, Hal had a business in corporate communications. Read more about Hal.
Rev. Carla reflection on the probable delay in receiving election results this year.
In December 2019, Carla started her two-year designated term pastorate at Plymouth. She spent the last 5 years consulting with churches on strategic planning, conflict transformation and visioning. Before going to seminary she volunteered at her church through Stephen Ministry, visiting ministries and leading worship services at a memory care unit and a healthcare facility. Learn more about Carla here.