“Gratitude is a virtue with ethical consequences. When we feel most grateful, it is impossible to be cruel or callous, brutal or indifferent … Thanksgiving can leave us unchanged. Gratitude does not – it changes us.”
Marcus Borg, Theologian
Local churches that are orientated towards mission are always on the look out for opportunities to connect relevantly with their communities. Communities which at times have misconceptions about the church, considering her to be self-serving or not caring about what is happening outside of its building. To bring harmony where we witness acrimony, we, the Islington mission lead church leaders, in collaboration with the Gratitude Initiative, decided to use gratitude as a currency and start by recognising the services and generosities we are experiencing from the public sector workers and charities in Islington.
Church leaders get to speak out publicly; we can express our concerns, challenges and encourage dialogue for the betterment of our services. But we can also use our platforms to recognise and acknowledge the positive contributions we see happening around us. We are convinced that being grateful and cultivating a culture of gratitude redeems society from a single story and puts contributions as well as shortcomings in perspective, balancing out the positive and the negative.
To this end, we prepared a formal dinner and a thank you framed certificate, and invited teachers, doctors, cleaners, Islington Ambulance, the fire brigade, police, Islington safe neighbourhood, councillors, greenspace and representatives of eight charities. The dinner hosted 65 guests and church leaders from various denominations serving the guests. The response went way beyond our expectations. At the end of the evening there was a consensus that this gratitude dinner should become an annual event to encourage a gratitude culture in Islington.
The impact of the event on the ongoing relationship of the Church with the public sectors and charities is astounding. We continue to see its transformational value bearing fruit in our encounters and connections with the communities in which we are grounded. Here are just a couple of responses. “We would like to thank you and all your colleagues from the London Ambulance service for the lovely certificate that you have awarded us. It is not often that we are recognised for the work we do, and your award meant so much to every one of us as it shows us that the public are grateful.”
“Our project working with homeless and marginalised people is not glamorous and we do not generally seek publicity because many of our clients prefer to be anonymous. So it was heartening that local leaders and the Gratitude Initiative have shown us appreciation. We feel encouraged and even more determined to fulfil our mission of justice and support for those on the edge of society.”
Revd Girma Bishaw is the Founder & Director of Gratitude Initiative. Find out more at gratitudeinitiative.org.uk.