Bringing Thankfulness for Today into Tomorrow

Old South held its first ever virtual annual meeting this past Sunday.  It was a nice, neat and short meeting.  As with any normal annual meeting, we voted on a slate of officers and a budget for the coming year.  In lots of ways, the meeting was, of course, not at all normal.  We didn’t enjoy a potluck lunch of soups and chilis (along with favorite dessert items) before the meeting got started.  We didn’t stand in a sort of circle to sing a prayer of thanks before sitting down for lunch.  We didn’t spend time at table, commenting on the amazing array of choices, and how we were planning to try as many as possible without bursting.  We didn’t experience that last minute scramble, to make sure everything was in place and that presenters had everything they needed before the meeting commenced.

This year, it felt like business was only a small part of our meeting.  The greater part was devoted to thankfulness.  We were thankful that we were able to gather, in our Brady Bunch existence (courtesy of Zoom), and that the majority of Old South folks were willing and have been willing to give this new virtual thing a try, and to stick with it over these many months.  We were thankful to one of our members who brought her computer to the church’s fellowship hall, to share the meeting with a couple of people who wanted to attend, but do not own computers, and another couple whose computer recently died a horrible death.

We offered gratitude for our “tech guy” who manages weekly worship services, doing his part to ensure smooth transitions from piece to piece, helping with the weekly set up and the lighting, and is available to respond to questions and issues that come across the chat box. 

There were lots of other expressions of thanksgiving as well:

  • For our long-suffering treasurer, who really doesn’t want to be treasurer anymore, but there’s no one else capable of taking the job and she is loathe to hand it over to a paid professional.
  • That we managed to get through 2020 without a financial crisis.  Owing to a PPP loan that has now been forgiven, we held onto the staff and kept them occupied, and compensated, through the entire year. 
  • For congregational leadership that has helped to keep us together in such a challenging time.
  • A music program that has made significant adjustments to our new way of being church.

It was good to take time to lift up and express our gratitude, that in the midst of a lot of uncertainty and worry, and the many challenges of the pandemic, Old South managed to get through the year without a major crisis of its own.

As we move steadily into this new year, it is clear enough that next year’s annual meeting will bring much more difficult business.  We are a small group, and getting smaller, and our buildings—now used only in a minimal way—aren’t shrinking with us, although they join us in aging and the need for more maintenance.

The choices and the decisions ahead are daunting, to be sure.  For today, the question is this: as we bask in the glory and wonder of gratitude, will be able to cling to our thankfulness as we face the future?  Will we be able not only to hold onto our gratitude, but keep it front and center as we sort through our choices and make decisions?  Will we allow the appreciation we feel today to guide how we engage with what is to come?

Will we spend just as much time next year, offering many words of gratitude, when we will very likely have difficult, and painful, decisions to make? In so many ways, this really ought not be a question, for God’s people have faced over the years, many complicated, thorny and heartbreaking moments. The important thing is always to be aware of who we are and to whom we belong. And, be thankful.

About smaxreisert

I'm a United Church of Christ pastor serving the small, faithful Old South Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, in Hallowell, Maine. I was ordained in Massachusetts in 1995, moved to Maine in 1997 and have served the Hallowell church since 2005.
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