“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
We all know how easy it is to give thanks in good circumstances. When things are going well and life seems to be unfolding as it should, it’s easy to feel grateful from the bottom of our hearts. But for most of us, life is not like that right now. The COVID-19 virus continues to wreak havoc on our world, disrupting our best-laid plans. People are sick, afraid and lonely; our churches are shut; jobs have evaporated; many of us are trying to be full-time school teachers while also working from home; we are told to stay away from each other. This is not how life should be!
So how, in the midst of this pandemic, can we give thanks to God? How can we cultivate a spirit of gratitude when everything seems so bleak? I can only offer an approach that has worked for me. I borrowed the idea from a woman I once knew in one of the parishes I served. She kept a “gratitude pad” on her nightstand. Every night before bed she would grab a pen and jot down four or five things for which she was grateful that day. I have recently taken on that practice as a way of staying thankful in difficult circumstances. Here are a few of the things on my gratitude pad from the past several weeks:
- 7:30 p.m. Pots & Pans Movement. I love hearing the sound of clanging pots and pans each night, as people on our street step out onto their porches to honour frontline workers and healthcare staff. Some churches are also ringing their church bells at 7:30 each night to join in. This cacophony is double gratitude for me: I am reminded to be grateful for the frontline workers, and also those who show gratitude to them! Give thanks for sacrifice. Give thanks for appreciation.
- The Anglican Outreach Support Network. Since the beginning of this pandemic, frontline outreach workers in Anglican ministries have gathered regularly in a network of mutual support and resourcesharing. Those within this network are leading the effort to continue ministering to the most vulnerable among us, including the homeless, the marginally housed, the hungry and the socially isolated. I give thanks for their deep commitment to those who are falling further through the cracks during this pandemic. Give thanks for compassion.
- Virtual Worship. For most of us, worship was transformed in an instant. One week we were in our buildings. The next we were shut out. As heart-wrenching as that has been, I am so thankful for the resiliency of communities who responded to this challenge by offering worship services by live stream, Zoom, conference call and pre-recorded video. Now, we can all visit any number of churches each week and hear some great music as well as a variety of homilies. Give thanks for creativity.
- Jubilee! In March, our Diocesan Council made the courageous decision to proclaim a Jubilee. For two months, no parish in our Diocese has needed to pay clergy costs or the monthly allotment. It was our hope that this relief would give parishes some breathing room as they adjusted to a very different reality and created new stewardship opportunities in response to the pandemic. Give thanks for generosity.
- The Risen Jesus. This pandemic has taken many things away from us, but it has not taken away our proclamation of the One who sets us free and gives us life. We celebrate that the tomb is empty! Now nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ: “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present nor things to come…” (Romans 8:38) Nor can this pandemic. We are a new creation, bound with God forever. Give thanks for resurrection and new life.
May the God of the Holy Spirit, who came upon the Church on the Day of Pentecost, fill us with a renewed sense of gratitude for our life together. And may we give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus.