Over the years I’ve been an Episcopalian, I’ve come to value how we all do things with such care and excellence, particularly at this time of year. No matter which parish I have attended, the Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany seasons have been simply amazing, particularly the parts that have involved service to others. So many people are fed, clothed, and supported with everything from medicine to pet food to utility bill costs. The only thing that sometimes seems to be missing is relationship and invitation with those we are serving.
In one parish, I remember many of us working on a Christmas gift project for local children. So many gifts were donated and beautifully wrapped by excited, festive parishioners. But, when the time came for households to receive their gifts, they arrived to an empty, dark, cold church and one or two parishioners with a checklist who had taken on the task of distributing the gifts. I remember another parish that hosted a holiday dinner for those in their community who were hungry. There was a large parish hall filled with families enjoying the dinner and a small back room of parishioners who were having dinner among their own circle of parish friends. I remember a turkey donation program at yet another parish where the recipients of the turkeys were asked to come during the week and during office hours, encountering only the church secretary. .
We are such a giving people and that is so wonderful. But, something we may want to evaluate this season is how we can much more intentionally give the gift of relationship and invitation with those whom we serve. Listening to someone, learning from them, breaking bread with them, inviting them to join us for another occasion, even singing or laughing with them, are some of the greatest gifts we can give. We can ask their names, shake their hands, and listen to their stories. We can commit to not doing our gifting in isolation. The reality is, simply being present is one of the greatest “presents” of all.
Kathy Copas, Diocesan Coordinator of Communication and Evangelism