Pastoral Letter #14

Pastoral Letter #14
Dear Members and Friends,

We missed you this morning. Yes, you. We had a Zoom coffee conversation at 9 and you weren’t there. We understand, maybe you had to run an errand. That happens. Or maybe you didn’t feel like chit chatting this morning. Or maybe you’re not comfortable getting into a group conversation when you may not know or even recognize anyone. Maybe you’re not a morning person. Or maybe Zoom feels too complicated.

Here’s what I fear about the end of this long stay-at-home siege: it comes to an end and you will have suffered in loneliness and isolation and not met a single new person in the entire time.

I’ll host a conversation Monday through Friday at 9 beginning tomorrow. Send me an email if you’d like to participate. Courage, mate. A little Star Trek reference: Travel where no one (well, where few) have gone before.

On another subject, let me introduce you to the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California at Berkeley. More specifically, I want to call your attention to its focus on happiness. They have courses like “The Science of Happiness” and “Happiness at Work.” I saw these courses and dismissed them as naïve.

Was I wrong! I was hesitant when I first logged on and saw discussion about positive psychology. How quickly I had forgotten my own studies of something akin to positive psychology. I studied the work of child psychiatrist Robert Coles. While some psychiatrists studied what happened that hurt children and caused mental health problems, Dr. Coles looked at children who survived extremely challenging experiences – the youngsters who integrated schools in the face of angry, screaming mobs; children who moved constantly because their families worked as migrants and did sharecropping; kids who grew up in extreme poverty in isolated mountain communities. He studied kids who survived and thrived so that we could all learn from them. That’s a positive psychology perspective even though he didn’t describe it in those terms.

The Greater Good Science Center’s research and teaching are in the same tradition as Coles’ research. What is it that helps us grow, that allows us to find and maintain our equilibrium, to have energy to face tomorrow and tomorrow and the tomorrow after that.

Here’s an example of what researchers at GGSC have learned.

Indeed, contemporary social science research reminds us that if we overlook gratitude, it will be at our own emotional and psychological peril. After years of ignoring gratitude—perhaps because it appears, on the surface, to be a very obvious emotion, lacking in interesting complications—researchers have found that gratitude contributes powerfully to human health, happiness, and social connection.

This quotation comes from an article, “Pay It Forward,” by Robert Emmons and can be found at…/item/pay_it_forward/ While you’re on that page, take note of the Science of Happiness course mentioned in the righthand column. Even though the course began some time ago, you can sign up for no cost, don’t have to take exams, and can hear some terrific thoughts about gratitude. I find it quite interesting that gratitude, a concept so central to our faith, is propounded by academic scholars based on “our research.” Glad to have the generosity, thanksgiving, and gratitude the church has practiced throughout its history “discovered” in 21st century academia

With gratitude,