This Sunday evening at 5.00pm I will be hosting Sr Margaret Malone at our Slow Spirituality Session. Margaret is a Good Shepherd Sister who has taught all her life and is a wise, generous and good teacher who has spoken to us in the past and was very well received.

Margaret will be talking about the spiritual practice of Gratitude. I have often wondered about how to foster gratitude. We teach our children to say thank you. We practice gratitude when we pause before we eat a meal to thank God in a meal-time prayer. We send a thank- you card or message to people who have invited us to a meal or given us a gift. And we also honour those in our community who have worked tirelessly over the years as a way of saying thank you for all that they have done.

In my first parish I remember writing my first annual report where I thanked people by name, and my Church Council Secretary raised her concerns by saying, ‘It’s better not to name people because you might miss someone and they could be disappointed or even resentful.’ I understood her point, but if we never name people and only give a general thank you to everyone, we lose the opportunity to directly thank people for the particular gifts and graces they bring to a community. It’s the same in our prayers. Praying generally for ‘the poor’ is one thing, but its more helpful to pray for particular people or situations, such as those who have contracted the covid-19 virus in the sugarcane-growing village of Rajewadi in India’s west. Focusing on particular people or situations makes all the difference – it grounds our prayer in a real context which we can identify with.

One of the things we notice when we read the Scriptures is that God works by calling particular people like Abraham, Moses, and Elijah to use their gifts and graces to effect God’s purpose. Jesus also called Peter and Andrew, James and John and the other disciples to learn from him as apprentices and then carry on his work. Yes, we also hear inspiring general statements like ‘God so loved the world…’ but we know that the way to loving the world is by connecting with particular people personally. Of course sometimes the way that happens in our society is through government or community policies and programs like better social housing, or mental health services. These policies and programs make a difference through the individual people who bring those policies and programs into effect to make a difference in people’s lives.

This Sunday after church we will be having our Annual General Meeting, and at such times it’s appropriate for us to thank those who have been willing to put their hand up to take on the responsibilities of an Elder or Church Councillor, and especially for those who take on the added responsibility as Chairperson, Secretary and Treasurer.

Bruce, for example, has willingly taken on the role of Chair of the Church Council for many years and we thank him for his dedicated service to our Congregation. The Chair of Church Council does so much behind the scenes. Bruce has been instrumental in building the safe church policy of our church and often training us and other congregations. He has done so much more which we will hear at our Congregational meeting on Sunday.

Rob has been Treasurer for nine years and the last few in particular have been very demanding with the Rail Crossing project and then the Covid Restrictions having a huge impact on our finances – to mention just two issues.

Garnet has also carried a significant load as Secretary, often working behind the scenes to follow up on decisions made.

I want to record my thanks to them and I’m sure that I speak for many others.