By Natalie Briscoe, Congregational Life Staff of the Southern Region
Fall is my favorite time of year! The holidays are just starting to get into swing. The weather turns colder and colder. Our thoughts turn to memories of autumns long past.
While it seems that time would slow down, that our home and church lives would draw inward and enter a time of hibernation, we know that the opposite is true. Holiday parties, fundraisers, family obligations, and the possibility of guests and travel can be, while exciting, exceedingly stressful as well.
Thank Goodness for Thanksgiving! One of my favorite holidays, Thanksgiving – and the entire season of November, if you are observing the 30 Days of Gratitude on Social Media this month – is more than an opportunity to gather loved ones, eat a big meal, watch some football, and fall asleep on the couch. It is a chance to contemplate and cultivate an attitude of gratitude in our daily lives and our work in congregations. It is an opportunity to turn our thoughts to the abundance around us and be grateful for the work of others, for how far we have already come, and for the wonderful resources, both human and divine, that sustain us.
How would we go about cultivating an attitude of gratitude in our lives? We could start by focusing on the positive, by giving voice to what we have instead of what we are always lacking. We could find ways to express gratitude to those around us and whom we often take for granted. We could write thank you notes to those closest to us, or tell them each evening one thing that they did that we appreciate.
In our congregational lives, it is particularly important to foster an attitude of gratitude. As we deal with what appears to be limited resources, we often forget how abundant our joys really are. We can begin by voicing our gratitude about our community to one another, having time to do so in the worship service, making gratitude the focus of check-ins in small groups or religious education classes, and making it the subject of our newsletters.
The benefits of intentionally practicing gratitude are endless. Taking on gratitude as a spiritual practice has been linked to longer life, a greater sense of well-being, longer-lasting happiness, and a greater sense of optimism in general. As a community, a focus on gratitude can increase connections to that community and a greater sense of belonging. And of course, an attitude of gratitude increases instances of altruism and generosity.
To kick off the season, some of your Southern Region Staff would like to express our own gratitude:
Maggie Lovins says she is particularly grateful for the way in which the Southern Region Staff has come together as a tight knit Team! The level of support the Staff is now able to give to congregations is directly informed by this kind of teamwork. She is also grateful for the evolution of our Faith and Association, the future looks healthy and bright and she feels blessed to be a part of it.
Glenn Johnson says, among the many things he has to be grateful for, that he is particularly thankful for his sweet and loving wife of 30 years, and his good health.
Susan Smith is grateful for leaders who show up on Sunday to be nurtured and inspired rather than hold impromptu business meetings or skip worship altogether.
And I am thankful for a career that lets me serve my Faith alongside so many other amazing leaders and for a family who is infinitely supportive in my calling to this career.
Thank you all for your leadership and all you do for Unitarian Universalism. You inspire me!