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Beginning with Gratitude

The new year always prompts a bit of reflection...and of course, annual reports! (Get yours in by January 14.) My thoughts heading back into the work routine this week have centered on gratitude for our church staff. They definitely fit in with our "small, but mighty" mentality.

Margaret has worked in the church office since 1999. One church leader (you know who you are) jokes me that I am not smart enough to have found Margaret, it had to be God. Margaret brings a great combination to the job - a deep faith of her own in the Roman Catholic tradition, and really clear boundaries about our congregational life. She hears everything and yet keeps confidences locked up tight. In terms of weekly tasks, she is usually ahead of me, and to say she is dependable is an understatement. Some of you may not be aware that she keeps the church financial books, so contact with our Treasurer Julie Boatright is a key element of her work. Now that internet communication has taken over most pastoral conversations, you are not as likely to call and hear her say "Good morning - Grace Immanuel - this is Margaret. How may I help you?" at maximum perk. But trust me, her energy level is still high! She is willing to help with virtually any task around the church. Just this morning we were taking down Christmas decorations, and she helped me find the communion cups I was overlooking. Thank you Margaret!

Kristen Hughes showed up in the choir one Sunday several years ago. She had never even visited the church, but had been to rehearsal the Wednesday before that. I remember asking someone "Who is that?" as I walked into worship. Kristen had called me with some questions about the church, but I did not dream she would go to choir rehearsal and be in the chancel the very next Sunday. When the Musical Director of that time was overcome with health problems and had to resign, our search committee immediately wondered if we might have our next candidate right under our nose. Conversation and discernment with Kristen affirmed that, and she has been our Musical Director ever since. Little did we know that she would bring a wealth of musical knowledge to us from many traditions. And have you noticed how often her music fits my sermon like a glove? It is uncanny some Sundays - and a reminder that the Spirit works in mysterious ways. In addition, the choir and ensemble sound like they are twice their actual number. This comes not only from the enthusiasm of the choir, but the skill of the director. Kristen's work at the Kentucky Center for the Arts has led her into developing the Warrior's Heart group for veterans and compassionate civilians which meets at Grace Immanuel. We value this and her other activities of Arts and Healing at the center. One more thing. Those of us who lead worship 50-plus times a year are bound to mess up now and then. Kristen has an ability to roll with the punches as we all "stumble towards Bethlehem." Thank you Kristen!

The theme repeats. We had a previous pianist/organist, but health and emotional issues caused dependability problems. The person's departure was sudden, so we were left in a bind. As I recall, Gordon Seiffertt talked to a Crescent Hill colleague who recommended Connie Wilcox as an immediate substitute. We liked her. It seems she liked us, and there she is every Sunday at the piano, or drums, or whatever else needs to be played! Connie is a teacher who knows how to work with all kinds of people, young and old. She proudly wears a purple streak in her hair. Her sardonic sense of humor is helpful ballast when we are about to go into worship on Sundays. She is excited and welcoming when kids want to participate in the music - not every musician would be. She is the type of person who fills gaps, without expecting a medal. Of course, my favorite Connie story is how often she picks up on my musical references in sermons and plays the song, unannounced and unrehearsed, as a postlude. That is very cool. Thank you Connie!

We are a fortunate congregation to have these dedicated, fun, and spiritually intuitive staff members. I am starting 2018 with gratitude.

Christ's Peace, Greg

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