Many congregations, including the one that I am working with right now as a consultant, care for their members by putting in the mail cards full of love and support when someone has fallen ill or is bereaved.
Some congregations have a committee that keeps a stock of stationary for this very purpose. Once a month, they gather for fellowship and write cards together.
Other churches have created a culture where the members know that any name listed on the prayer list on Sunday can be found in the church directory and that those prayers on Sunday morning reach right on into the week with a flurry of stamped envelopes sent to that dear person who needs a boost in the midst of the chaos of life.
When I was serving as a solo pastor in Washington state, it was my own practice. I asked the administrator of the church to order me special stationary with the church logo and each week, I’d conclude my week by writing five thank you notes. I’d make notes of my gratitude over the week. I’d notice on Sunday that a new acolyte had lit the candles in worship and send that child a note to say what a great job he did. I’d attend a meeting and notice the skill that a member of the church had exhibited in leading a tough conversation. I’d notice that two people stay after Bible Study to talk about something that one of them had shared. I’d send a note to both of them to thank them for reminding me (again) how much the community of Jesus Christ makes a difference in this world. I’d send notes to staff members and musicians just to say I’m so grateful for sharing in this awesome work together.
Since I left that church, I’ve had two big events in my life that have required me to keep a spreadsheet of names, addresses and gifts. I’ve restocked my stationary supply twice now. First, it was for my wedding and I’m still pretty sure that I missed some words of thanks. And at this very moment, I am surrounded by pink stationary with words of thanks in a childish font to send to dear ones that have already showered our baby with love. (She is due in October, by the way.) I have to admit that I love writing these notes. I love getting the chance to take a moment to focus my words on gratitude for the love that has been showed to me. It’s something I think that we need more of in the world. We need more gratitude and opportunities and praise. It is for this reason that I offer you this recipe for gratitude.
This particular recipe is not focused on churches — though it certainly could be. It is instead a prayer practice I invite you to share with me.
Don’t worry about how many cards you might send. At first, just start with one and just wait and see how it changes how you pay attention to the world around you.