posted on May 13
Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
for his wonderful works to humankind.
Back in the winter, I was going through some boxes of “treasures” from my childrens’ childhoods. It’s amazing what we keep! I found some wonderful items to share with our first grandchild, who is due on August 26. (Yes, I’m very excited!) I also found a few useful things for myself. One was a Gratitude Journal, perhaps a Confirmation gift for my daughter Ellen years ago. She had made several entries, but there were plenty of open pages left. I adopted it for myself, and began using it each day. It contains thoughtful prompts, such as “Pick out three things in your day that are beautiful. Take time to notice and appreciate them in the moment; then, when you get home, jot them down in your journal.”
It has become clear to me once again that gratitude is truly a “muscle” in the human spirit that can be exercised and developed. No wonder the Psalms call upon us so often to be grateful, and to give thanks. It is a framework for an obedient and joyful life. I have enjoyed developing more gratitude muscle, and I realize that my gratitude expands far and wide, and particularly to all of you in the Northern Piedmont District.
You were all amazing during our recent winter and spring consultations, and your stories of resilience inspire me every day. I remain so grateful for your Conference Giving (93.84% in 2020) and your District Giving (95.2% in 2020) and for the steady pace at which you are giving in 2021.
I am also grateful to our Western North Carolina Conference, for all the steps it has taken to help our churches in their time of need:
- Our WNCC Board of Pension & Health Benefits provided a three-month waiver of pension and health benefits billing for local churches in 2020, to support local churches in a time of struggle and uncertainty related to COVID-19. Across the conference, that support amounted to more than $3,000,000.
- Creation of the $1,000,000 Connexion Fund, that has made grants to local churches across the conference to support clergy salaries in emergency situations resulting from struggle due to COVID-19.
- Spending freeze implemented by Conference in April 2020.
- Maximized use of video conferencing platforms, limited staff travel to only those tasks and activities which are most vital for the operation of ministries. Eliminated the purchase of resources for staff and better utilized the Conference Resource Center. Conducted a detailed review of all outside vendor contracts. No raises for any conference/district staff.
- Conference/District total budget reduction from 2020 to 2021 of $2,134,039 (11.77% reduction)
- Negotiated and provided discount Zoom licenses for local churches: https://www.wnccumc.org/Zoom
- Provided an online giving portal for submission of tithes and offerings to any United Methodist Church within the Western North Carolina Conference. https://www.wnccumc.org/online-donations-to-churches
- Created and continues to update a COVID-19 resource area on conference website, with links to a variety of resource and training information for local churches. https://www.wnccumc.org/covid
- Leadership Development Spiritual Renewal grants for ministry leaders (clergy and lay professionals)
- Grants available in 2021 to local churches helping as stations for COVID-19 testing and vaccines.
We are still wrestling with the long-term implications of COVID-19, and there is no doubt that it will have a lasting impact on the life of the church. That does not, however, change my level of gratitude for the great gifts of daily bread, the love of family and church, and my extreme thankfulness for the eye God has given me to see the beautiful things.
Let us continue to be good to one another, to set an example of kindness and grace even in times of strain and stress, and to give thanks daily for the many blessings God offers each day. May you serendipitously find a gratitude journal, too. Put pen to any piece of paper, and lift an earnest prayer of thanksgiving to our loving God, with a fit and grateful heart.
With Thanksgiving for All the Beautiful Things,
Rev. Bev Coppley