Reconciliation Begins at Home
Lots of us are heading home for Thanksgiving, but we're not feeling especially thankful. We're tired, wary, and the last thing we want to do is see Christ in the other with whom we disagree. So I sat down with Heather Melton - staff officer for the United Thank Offering - to pen a word of encouragement AND share a set of resources for practicing gratitude and dialoguing respectfully. It's not the end of the journey, but it is a start ...
In 1863, the thick of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday. He knew how divided America was, with entire families and regions suffering deep wounds, stark oppression and deprivation, and seemingly untenable ideological difference. He hoped the annual commemoration would help families to gather, remember and give thanks, even as they faced the uncertain and painful days ahead.
More than 150 years later, we face another moment of national division, confusion and pain. Many of us are worried about how to gather with people who hold vastly different beliefs and opinions, in our own families or in the wider community. There are no quick fixes, but there is a Christian practice to which we can return, and it is the one President Lincoln recommended: gratitude. Together, the United Thank Offering and the Office for Evangelism and Reconciliation have compiled resources that we hope will help people of faith who want to remain rooted in gratitude and love for self and for the other, even as we remain honest about the values that guide both our faith and action.
Gathering in gratitude is not something new for Episcopalians. In 1883, the women of the church first took up a thank offering to support mission and ministry. That offering became our modern day United Thank Offering or UTO. UTO continues to encourage Episcopalians to participate in a daily spiritual discipline of gratitude, to seek the goodness of God even in the darkest times.
We trust that, if we begin with gratitude and ask for eyes to see Jesus in the other – not as a pithy phrase that hides judgment, but as a deep spiritual practice – we can avoid falling more deeply into “us” vs. “them” patterns and begin the long, slow, rehumanizing work of reconciliation (which requires both forgiveness and justice).
Attached are resources for nurturing gratitude within and in our interactions. We have also included recommended resources for engaging in effective, nonviolent dialogue across difference. These should be helpful whether you’re navigating a holiday gathering or future conversations in church, in social settings or on social media, with neighbors, family or acquaintances.
We wish you every blessing this Thanksgiving, and pray that it will be a time of spiritual restoration, connection and rest. We need all those gifts in the days ahead.
Heather and Stephanie
On Faith and Gratitude:
- Materials to help children understand gratitude: https://uto2014.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/thanksgiving-united-thank-offering-lesson-plan.pdf
- Read the Theology of Thankfulness and learn more why gratitude is a Christian spiritual practice. https://uto2014.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/web-theology-of-thankfulness.pdf
- Worship resources on thankfulness.
- Sample sermons: https://uto2014.wordpress.com/clergy/sample-sermon/
- Hymns and Prayers: https://uto2014.wordpress.com/clergy/worship-resources/
- United Thank Offering
- Watch videos about the United Thank Offering projects it has funded: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zaufonUBjoQ
On General Gratitude: (not an endorsement of the complete site, just the page referenced)
- Fishbowl Gratitude Questions:
- Free printable fishbowl questions to help your family think of all of the things to be grateful for in your lives: https://modernparentsmessykids.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/MPMK_thankful1.pdf
- Throughout November, the UTO Facebook page has questions about gratitude and daily life: www.facebook.com/unitedthankoffering
- TED Talks on Gratitude:
- Want to be Happy? Be Grateful. https://www.ted.com/talks/david_steindl_rast_want_to_be_happy_be_grateful
- Nature. Beauty. Gratitude https://www.ted.com/talks/louie_schwartzberg_nature_beauty_gratitude
- A Story about Knots and Surgeons https://www.ted.com/talks/ed_gavagan_a_story_about_knots_and_surgeons
- 365 Days of Thank You (TEDxYouth) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QNfAnkojhoE
- 365 Gratitude Project https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zaufonUBjoQ
- Gratitude and the body: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/23/gratitude-effect-body_n_6510352.html
On Respectful Dialogue and Reconciliation:
- Members of the Presiding Bishop’s staff curated a list of resources for racial reconciliation work and dialogue, including books, articles and resource pages. http://www.episcopalchurch.org/page/resources-racial-reconciliation-and-justice
- The Episcopal Church in Minnesota offers materials to help with difficult conversations:
- The Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, a facilitator for Fierce Conversations in the Episcopal Church, recommends the following webpage: www.fierceinc.com.
- Eric Law, founder of the Kaleidoscope Institute, offers a process for engaging in gracious, post-election dialogue on his blog. http://ehflaw.typepad.com/blog/2016/11/post-election-gracious-conversation.html