Unfeignedly Thankful: A Reflection on Gratitude
The Mid-Week Missive is based on Community Rules: An Episcopal Manual by Ian Markham and Kathryn Glover, both administrators at Virginia Theological Seminary. I am working my way through this book, reading and writing through the lens of our Life Together as part of the Christ the King Episcopal Church family, as well as part of the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast.
Rule #16: Give Thanks to God; Give Thanks to Others. Markham and Glover’s reflection on this rule can be found in their book, which can be purchased here.
How does this rule apply to our Life Together at Christ the King? One major change that came with the 1979 Book of Common Prayer was that it became to norm to celebrate Holy Eucharist at the principal worship service every week. The word “eucharist” means thanksgiving, and the pinnacle of the Holy Eucharist service is the prayer of Great Thanksgiving. So gratitude is at the heart of our weekly worship...we are being conditioned to be thankful for all that God has done and continues to do.
That being said, one might think that gratitude comes easy for Christians who participate in the eucharist every week. But my experience is that gratitude takes constant practice. Personally, I am more inclined to think about what could be improved, or what needs to get done, or what I want to accomplish next.
To work on my gratitude, I send out “thank you” notes every week to folks who have helped at the church in one way or another. The feedback I oftentimes receive is something along the lines of “thank you for the note(s), but save the time and the stamp. You don’t have to write me a thank you note. I am happy to help.” And I know that to be true. Nobody at CtK serves because they want to be noticed or thanked. They serve because they love God and they love the church.
But the “thank you” notes are as much for me as they are the recipient. They force me to practice the discipline of gratitude. They force me to slow down, and before I jump to what lies ahead for the week, to reflect on my gratitude for those who helped last Sunday.
Another way that I am working on practicing gratitude is to pray the General Thanksgiving (BCP p. 71) every evening at Evening Prayer. This prayer (the Rite 1 version in particular) is perhaps my favorite in all of the Prayer Book. I commend it to you!
We just launched our Stewardship campaign at CtK this week, and giving our time, talent, and treasure is another practical and spiritual way we can practice gratitude.
When I pause for a moment (not an easy thing for me to do), I become more aware of the many opportunities there are for me to practice gratitude to God and to others. And for that, I am grateful!