Senior Minister's Message - Rev. Dr. Mark Boyea


Several months ago, one of our fellow UCC churches in New Jersey asked if I would be willing to lead their annual men’s retreat this October.  At the time,  they  were unsure what theme  they  wanted  to  explore  but  would contact  me  again  over  the summer to begin planning the  weekend’s agenda.

When  they  got  back  to  me  in  July, they  were no  longer searching  for  a theme. They unequivocally wanted to explore the concept of “Hope”. They had sensed a clear struggle on the part of their members to maintain a sense of hope in the current tumultuous political and social climate.

After several weeks of research and reflection, I proposed and then carried out  a  program for them  based  on approaching  hope  as  a spiritual  and psychological skill-  not something  we  either  have or  don’t  have,  but instead all  have  an  innate  disposition toward  to  varying  degrees. That disposition  can  be improved  and  maintained through the  development  of other habits.  It  is  an  understanding of  hope  as  a  by-product  of other  life practices.

Of those habits, one of the few which showed up on nearly every piece of research  I  came across  regarding  people  who  were evaluated  as being generally  “hopeful”  was gratitude.  Hopeful  people  tend  to  be  people for whom gratitude is a consistent life practice.

So  as  we  enter  the  month  of  November - the month  of  Thanksgiving - I invite  you to  try  a  little  experiment  on  yourself. Each day throughout  the month, perform a practice of gratitude. Make a list at the end of a day of the things  you  are grateful  for from  it.  Send  an  email  or  note  thanking someone, whether it is for something recent or long ago. Make a donation to a charity, school or other organization in the name of someone you are grateful to for something that made a difference your life.

Then, at the end of the month, see if you haven’t become a more grateful person. And because of that, a more hopeful one as well.