Full of Gratitude
Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.
Fall is my favorite time of the year. Crisp cool mornings, warming afternoons, the trees in all their magnificent multicolored splendor—it’s glorious. As we make the turn into autumn, my heart is full of gratitude. I am thankful for the gracious welcome you have extended to me since my arrival. You all have made my move to Kentucky one of joy and adventure.
And thank you to everyone who helped make our Season of Creation worship series in September such an amazing experience! It lifted my heart to catch glimpses of the your world, places cherished by many of you. What a thrill to have so many voices coming together to celebrate creation, to lead us in worship, and to imagine how together we can respond to God’s call to care for the earth. We are very blessed to be surrounded by wonderful musicians who readily share their gifts with us and our community. I want to give a big shout out to our musical staff: Genny Jenkins, Jiyeon McGillicuddy, Caleb Fouts, Anna Grayson, and Bailey Hobbs. And a special thank you to Andrew Preston and our very own Roy and Jean Reynolds for making the worship for River Sunday even more meaningful.
I’m also incredibly grateful to all of you who have given financially to the Amplify Our Reach campaign to modernize and upgrade our audio-visual technology. Because of your wonderful generosity in the last month we are able to begin with the implementation of upgrades to our video streaming capabilities. And a big thank you goes to David Perkins for putting in many hours helping us improve our internet connections and network. His work gives us improved upload speeds for livestreaming worship services from the sanctuary which will greatly enhance our broadcast capabilities.
These are investments not only for our short-term situation, but for the future vitality of our congregation. We are experiencing a shift in the way churches gather, worship, and minister to our communities. In many ways the inability of gathering in person for worship has pushed us to recognize the world had already changed even before COVID-19. The challenge for us going forward will be to integrate these multiple ways of communicating, gathering, and being church together when we are able to worship in-person again.
In our weekly vespers service on Zoom, we share in prayer together. We are invited to give voice to our prayers in two categories: gratitude and concern. We begin those prayers of the people with gratitude as a spiritual practice. Giving thanks requires that we pay attention—we look to our daily lives and find gifts, big and small, which bring joy to us. Focusing on gratitude allows us to look beyond ourselves; it nurtures humility and empathy for others.
There is much in our world which can lead us to despair. In the coming months we will find it hard to resist the temptations to focus on fear or to retreat into our corners. Let’s not take the bait. As people of faith we can choose gratitude and we can work to heal divisions. We can march for justice, and we can be peacemakers. In other words, we can be disciples of Christ.
May God grant us wisdom and courage for the living of these days.
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A native of Illinois, Rev. Nancy Gowler lived for 26 years in the Pacific Northwest. She joined the ministry of First Christian Church in Morehead, KY, in July of 2020.