Grateful and Generous
by Kathye Hamm
“The two top characteristics of a good steward are being grateful and generous. So how do we learn/teach generosity and gratitude in our community?” ELCA Director for Stewardship Keith Mundy asked this question to some members of the Stewardship Discipling Team last week when we met to share and learn from one another. This undergirds our 21stcentury challenge on how we understand our spiritual discipline of stewardship and how do we express this through generosity and a life of gratitude. These two spiritual practices of gratitude and generosity seem to be a mundane part of our daily living, not much to pay attention to. Yet Diana Butler Bass asked the question, “If gratitude is good, why is it so hard to do?” that compelled her to research, reflect and finally put this journey into a book entitled “Grateful: the Transformative Power of Giving Thanks.” We may disagree with Butler Bass and say a simple thank you to others is really not difficult to do, but we sometimes forget that in that simple exchange comes a responsibility to a relationship that was recognized in an exchange.
Mundy encouraged us to define or reflect about gratitude and generosity in our context and culture. In my first language, Tagalog, we say thank you with “Salamat po.” Our language has been influenced by many others, including the Malay language. I have always been curious as to why our way of saying thank you seems to relate to the word “salaam,” which means “peace” in Arabic. “Po” is a way of expressing respect for a person. Thus, when I say thank you I also wish or give someone “peace” and offer recognition of their place in the community. This kind of reflective expression of gratitude is both generous and courageous. It takes some risk to expand my “simple” gratitude from a brief response into hope and work for peace or wholeness of the person or people I am expressing my gratitude to.
Both generosity and gratitude are what I believe we experience at the table of Christ, a table that extends beyond our individual congregation, to the 192 congregations of our synod, to the 65 synods and more than 9,000 congregations’ tables of Christ around our denomination, and beyond. This generous table in our synod includes our ministry partners, currently 10 mission congregations/communities, and various mission opportunities God is calling us to participate in and be part of God’s mission.
There are many ways to deepen our spiritual practice of stewardship, in gratitude and generosity, through learning from one another. How do you say thank you? Is it sometimes hard to express our thanks by sharing with another? What would it look like if we are truly a church of generosity and gratitude?
Mundy shared some with us resources that you can access and contextualize in your own community through the ELCA website (https://www.elca.org/Our-Work/Congregations-and-Synods/Stewardship and https://www.elca.org/Resources/Stewardship.) There are many other strategies and resources available, including Stewardship Coaching, The Generosity Project, Cultivating Generous Congregations, Resourceful Servants, Generosity 365, the Realm Vitality Project, and more. The Stewardship Discipling Team is also here for support and planning. What will be meaningful for your community? To grow in our generosity, including the stewardship of the whole creation and sustainability of our communities, both financially and in relationship, requires some risk taking. We can only do this as a church, better together.
I cannot end this challenge to you, congregations and leaders, without saying, “Maraming Salamat po.” (I thank you many times, with respect.) May God’s peace surround you, as together we take risks to grow our giving, out of gratitude and God’s generosity.
Pr Tita Valeriano
Director for Evangelical Mission and Assistant to the Bishop
May 14, 2019