--By Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi--
I recently received a card from the Sewickley United Methodist Church. It was a card of welcome and invitation to their Family Thanksgiving Dinner. The outside of the card caught my attention. It read, “We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing.” In the midst of reading my mail that day, the line from this familiar hymn caused me to pause. I began to reflect on all of the many blessings this season of my life has brought.
God, I am grateful for my family. You have given me a phenomenal husband. He has embodied grace as we have transitioned from being an “ordinary” clergy couple to this quite extraordinary life of being an episcopal family. I thank you for allowing me to be born to Godly parents who continually teach me how to love. You gave me three siblings and in-laws whom I love and like and who love and like me. You blessed me with a nephew who is a delight. You gave me a mother-in-law who relishes her son’s joy in his marriage and is always reaching out to show love to her daughter-in-law.
I thank you for the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference. I am grateful for the tremendous hospitality I have experienced from the people of WPA through their prayers, emails, cards, gift baskets, flowers, and invitations to preach and teach. How precious were the dozens of hand written cards from the members of First UMC in Punxsutawney; the hand- print welcome banner from the children of the Vacation Bible School of Grace UMC in Coal Center; the banner of welcome from the children living in the shelter in Erie; and the homemade card from Lily and Shannon Shaffer.
God, I rejoice in the mission and ministry I have witnessed as I have traveled throughout the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference and have had conversation with clergy and laity. What a joy these past couple of months have been for me serving as the Bishop of the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference. I thank you for the privilege I have of being able to serve for such a time as this!
Almighty One, in the midst of my abundant gratitude, I know there are some who have to search more deliberately to find places and spaces of thanksgiving. I pray for those for whom family gatherings are not a time of peace and joy. I pray for the indigenous peoples of this land for whom Thanksgiving is often a reminder of their people’s genocide. I pray for those for whom the preparation of a Thanksgiving dinner is a reminder of their fragile economic circumstances. I pray for those who will be alone this Thanksgiving.
God, thank you. I thank you that whether we are in a season where the places and spaces of our gratitude are abundantly obvious or are more difficult to find – you are there, holding us in the palm of your hand. So as families and individuals all over this annual conference gather together, I ask that you would bless them always to know and feel your presence and constantly be transformed by Your love. In Jesus name I pray.