United Thank Offering

Gratitude and the Cycle of Resurrection

April 5, 2024
United Thank Offering

By Heather Melton, UTO Staff Officer

It is very busy around UTO right now. In April, the 2024 grants are off at Executive Council, which means  there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work to make sure that everything is ready to be sent out into the world after that meeting. We’re working on all of our things for General Convention, which includes revamping all materials and having our fall formation materials finished. On top of that, we’re in the final stages of the transition from the 2021-2024 UTO Board to the 2024-2027 UTO Board. So much change, and change is a cycle of loss and resurrection, so it felt like a good moment to think about change and Easter and gratitude.

I need to start by confessing that I love Easter and Holy Week. It is my favorite. I like Christmas, but there’s something about Easter and spring unfolding that is really pretty fantastic. For many of us, change is hard, yet the only way to Easter is through Good Friday, the death and loss, then on to Holy Saturday, where we are left wondering what comes next and learn to embrace change, before finally making it to Easter and new life. 

I share all of this because we go through this cycle in our daily lives in big and small ways. Change is uncomfortable. But if we approach it with gratitude for what could come next, it does get a bit easier. Currently, stuffed animals live in bins under the bed in my kid’s room. They don’t come out much, but some are special and hard to let go of; others are just hard to let go of. The twins and I talked about how if we could get rid of a few and rearrange the others, then there would be a bin for their Barbies, and it would be easier to find the right doll. All of a sudden, six barely-played-with teddy bears were available for a local charity, and we cheered with gratitude for a new Barbie space. I know this is overly simplistic, and sometimes the death is a traumatic or hard one, but even past that is resurrection. In one of the UTO videos, a man talks about losing his wife to cancer, then coming back to say thank you to the hospital staff. His grief is still raw in the video, but so is his gratitude and hope. I am always grateful for his willingness to share his experience and feelings with our community because it is such a testimony to how gratitude can help us get to resurrection. 

I find that I’m in the Holy Saturday place this April as we work on so many things that represent so much change. I will deeply miss getting to spend so much time with the folks who are retiring from the Board (they’ll likely be grateful for far fewer emails) and their energy, thoughtfulness, and hope, and I’m really excited to see what new ideas and energy the new folks will bring. This journey to resurrection is a big stew of gratitude, sadness, joy, and change, but it is the magic of UTO. If we didn’t go through this change, we’d get really boring really fast, and we’d really burn folks out of leading, so it is one of those bittersweet moments. I also find it really life-giving, too. I think these moments of change are like puzzles to figure out. For example, it’s clear folks like getting materials for free and without having to download them. That brings the challenges of how to do it in more cost-effective ways, so you’ll see that our 2024 grant brochure looks dramatically different because now it can be printed at a local print shop and not just at a professional one, making it less costly and more accessible. For me, these are the kinds of changes that are really energizing, and I hope they also keep UTO fun for all of you who have been participating for a year, 10 years, or a lifetime. 

One of my favorite Easter themes is that God is making all things new, and that includes all of us. God is making all kinds of things new this spring at UTO, and it is bittersweet. We’ll say our hails and farewells in June, but until then, I’m going to enjoy the busy nature of this middle place of preparing for resurrection, of the change that is unfolding around us so that we can really embrace the moment, and then go and find the resurrected Christ who is waiting for us to be brave enough to move through the cycle and follow him to new life. I hope this Easter brings you new life and resurrection in ways that generate gratitude for what was, what is, and what will be. 

The Rev. Cn.
Heather Melton

Staff Officer for the United Thank Offering

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