Being Thankful

An address from Malcolm Griggs to start St Martin’s Annual Renewal Campaign for 2018-19

Thanks Giving 

Good morning .   Usually, it’s another  member of my family standing here, not me, but it’s traditional during the stewardship and in-gathering time of year for lay people to convey their personal perspective on what church and community mean to them and how we have concluded that it is important to give back.   That’s the part of this that is frankly unsettling .  I have no problem making people’s eyes glaze over with boredom when discussing abstract concepts, ….it’s one of my core competencies….but when it gets personal? …well, it’s personal.

So maybe let’s approach it this way:  If any one of us were standing here today to discuss the level of importance that the church occupies in their life and why they give of their talents; I suspect we’d hear  something a bit different from each of us . Some things would resonate, others would not, but perhaps a thought might be kindled , or a motivation encouraged.   There is no one path to engagement with our church community . As Mark often says , we are a congregation on a journey , and I think that can apply to our spiritual journey as well as how we interact with the Church  and with our broader community.

For me , there are intersecting factors in how I view my role in the church and the community and how I choose to spend my time and how I choose to make contributions of my time and resources.  For the sake of ease , and because this is supposed to be personal, I’m using terms like “I” and “my” , but for the record , …decisions on resource contributions and so many other things in my life are actually “our “ decisions , made by me and Linda together , as we have always done.

So the disclaimers dispensed  with,  let’s now get back to these intersecting factors that I mentioned.  These factors include Stewardship, Citizenship, and Gratitude. And each of these factors is somehow tied up in Love. Love for community, love for God and the love of God for God’s creation , including us.

So that brings me back to the first of these intersecting factors that inform why and how I choose to contribute .

Stewardship 

the concept to me has to do with the present and the future ; in particular the need to preserve things that matter for generations that will come after us.  I’ll give two examples of what I mean…one global…the other closer to home.

First, there is no conceivable positive outcome for the future  resulting from the destruction of coral reefs, the rainforests or an increase in Carbon Dioxide content in our atmosphere.  In my view if we allow this to happen we are failing in our role as Stewards of God’s creation . We are not the “owners” of God’s creation .  It was given to our temporary , responsible use, not for us to destroy through our negligence or willful greed , without regard for future generations.  That was not our job. Our job was to act as steward of God’s creation so that others may know God through it . 

The other example ,  quite close to home here at St. Martins, is this wonderful place where we are able to meet with each other and affirm together what we believe and what we seek to understand .  St. Martins has been around a long time and has been in this location , in this building , for 100 years.  I believe we are stewards of this building and of the spiritual life that is facilitated by gathering in this place.  We cannot, through action or inaction , fail future generations who may benefit from a congregation here .  This includes worshipers, seekers of spiritual knowledge and solace, and the community at large who may benefit from our outreach programs .  I believe our faith informs how we deal with each other and with the world around us.  So Stewardship of God’s creation and stewardship of God’s vision for our relationship with God and with each other is a prime factor for me in how to spend time and resources and this intersects with the next factor.

Citizenship

To be a good citizen in a democracy  requires, in my view,  the discipline to be civil with those with whom we disagree .  A lack of disagreement among members of society is a hallmark of a totalitarian state ( not to mention just plain boring) ; and so, while many of us could use a good dose of “boring”  in our political discourse lately ,  it is critically important that we listen to each other respectfully without abdicating our right to advocate  our own point of view.

It is also essential  that we are educated on the critical policy positions that affect us all , ….and that we vote .  The reason I think Citizenship intersects with stewardship is that Citizenship , and our participation in our community through civic engagement is often the means by which we can ensure that we are good stewards of the resources needed to enable our community and people from other communities who wish to join ours, to be fed and sheltered and educated and given a chance to be safe and to be loved .  Citizenship is not just activism on policy issues. It is , or should be , the secular version of what we Christians promise in our baptismal covenant when we say that we will “Respect the Dignity of Every Human Being”.  That’s a powerful promise that we make as followers of Christ , and when we respect the dignity of every human being  it’s hard not to be a good steward.

And when these things happen I am grateful, which brings me to my last intersecting factor .

Gratitude

I am grateful for many things, but I’ll name a few that top the list, and then end by describing how I think all of this fits together:

  • I am grateful for this Church , which has welcomed and supported us through Linda’s ordinations, my Daughter’s wedding ( two years ago this month) and day to day life . I’m sure everyone here can think of why you might be grateful for St. Martins…life events like baptisms, confirmations, weddings or funerals, or day to day spiritual sustenance
  • I am grateful for the opportunities that were afforded to me to obtain a good education and a meaningful career
  • I am grateful that I don’t have to worry about shelter or where my next meal will be coming from
  • I am grateful for friends who make life interesting
  • I am grateful for my family . I’m especially grateful that 40 years ago this month I decided to take  a study break and go downstairs to a common area in my dorm , where I met my future wife.
  • I am grateful for the outdoors and New England in the Autumn ( and actually New England any time of year)
  • I am grateful for the gift of music , especially the richness of the music environment that we have in Rhode Island, including our excellent choir here at St. Martins, and also the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra and Music School , which has an extraordinary group of musicians and teachers, including our own Cheryl Bishkoff.

I know we are charged with being Stewards of God’s creation and God’s expectations of us as a community ; I know that Civic engagement , small or large,  is important  in fulfilling our mission as Stewards ,  but for me the Motivation  for civic engagement and Stewardship is gratitude.  That laundry list of things for which I am grateful was not random.  I support , with my time and resources , St. Martin’s Church , The Rhode Island Philharmonic , Nature Conservancies, and organizations that alleviate hunger, enhance education, and provide shelter to God’s children.  I do this not out of a sense of duty, but out of a sense of gratitude for things that matter ;  …and I am thankful  that in some small way , through my time, or whatever I might be able to afford,  that I can contribute in the present and FOR the future.

Next month we will celebrate Thanksgiving .  Most of us have visions of turkey and stuffing and great food and giving thanks for our blessings. And that’s fine .  But I wonder if this year Thanks Giving might mean something a bit different ?   In addition to giving thanks ,  perhaps we should  think about giving because we are thankful.

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