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Guest Authors
December 1, 2020

Thoughts on Joy this Giving Tuesday

By Anne Spears, Director of Development

Way back in October 2017 my kids and I planned a quick trip to Colorado, a weekend getaway with my parents to enjoy cooler weather and the mountains, leaving my basketball coach husband at home since his busy season was just beginning. But then, my parents became unable to travel after my dad received a cancer diagnosis, and rather than than lose the money spent on plane tickets and a really cool AirBnB rental, the kids and I took off.

The three of us spent 48 hours tromping around Rocky MountainNational Park, building fires in the fire place, hiking, and playing in the snow. On our last day in Colorado, we had eight hours to kill before our flight home from Denver, and we took our time on our way to the airport since it was snowing hard, stopping to explore a little mountain town called Nederland. We visited an ecology center where my kids fed live bugs to a hedgehog, ate pizza, and  stumbled upon a strange building called “the Carousel of Happiness.” Always up for an adventure, we went inside and laid eyes on the most beautiful carousel I had ever seen. We had started our trip accompanied by a quiet sadness that my parents weren’t coming and a faint shadow of worry because of Dad’s diagnosis. After riding the colorful, wooden animals and hearing the boom-pop-pop sound of the organ playing, all three of us felt so joyful. Ending the trip by riding a carousel we happened upon by accident, gave us some relief from our worry.

Little did I know that in just two and a half years, Nederland and the Carousel of Happiness would reenter my family's life through my work at the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas. A short drive from Duncan Park, our summer campers and families enjoy the very same carousel as part of their visits. And this past summer, my family once again visited that magically happy place during our own time at Duncan Park. It’s funny how that part of our family story reconnected with itself and how that joyful place has affected my family so deeply. The Carousel of Happiness’ motto is “Don’t Delay Joy” and the remarkable story of its creation proves that sometimes great joy can emerge from hard times.

Earlier this year, when discussing the Camps Annual Campaign with its co-chairs, the Revs. Bert Baetz and Ripp Hardaway, Rev. Baetz brought up the Compline service prayer from the Book of Common Prayer: 

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen. 

This familiar prayer begins with a heavy reminder, asking for relief for hearts that are hurting, and then it ends with a request for protection of people who have joy. The words of this prayer remind us that joy deserves protection, and that the places and experiences that elicit joy merit celebration, even when the circumstances surrounding them are dark. It’s easy to see the truth that Rev. Baetz was pointing out, that the experiences at our Camps & Conferences create joyous people. Whether in the Rocky Mountains, on Mustang Island, or in the Texas Hill Country, camp is rejuvenating and fun. And joy resounds throughout our other diocesan programs, as well, even when confronted with new and difficult challenges.

While visiting with Allie Melancon, Director of College Missions, she told me about the book study shared by college students this Fall Semester, across the Diocese (and beyond), as they read and talked about The Character of Virtue by Stanley Hauerwas, in a series of Zoom meetings. Hauerwas names joy as a holy virtue, saying “Love is joy in the presence of the other. ...Joy, in short, is made possible by the assurance that through the HolySpirit we have been given a life worth living.” College students find themselves filled with the joy that comes from knowing and living alongside one another. Allie is finding that while young people may appear weary in the face of the decisions, tasks, responsibilities, and pandemic protocols in front of them, they are resilient and aware of the places where God shows up in their lives. It is evident that the time spent together, even online, can create a place of joyful connection and community.

In my bi-weekly meeting with our World Missions department I posed the same question: “How does the work done by World Missions and our missioners create joy?” Most of the time, the communities supported by our mission teams and partnerships are confronted by famine, disease, and a scarcity of resources in their day-to-day lives that many people cannot begin to imagine. How could it be possible to experience joy in the midst of such despair? In her wisdom, Dr. Marthe Curry, Director of World Missions, responded that the joy comes from the hope being provided by the missioners. Wherever food is shared, a doctor shows up, or clean water becomes available, the people who need help receive much more than the tangible assistance. Hope grows where there was little before and that relief makes room for joy and connection with those who are helping them.

I’ve been reflecting on this concept of “shielding the joyous” for months now and have started noticing the little flashes of joy that show up, even now during this pandemic. I think about St. Thomas Early Learning Center at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in College Station, and how much joy it brought my family over the years. I think about the Carousel of Happiness in Nederland, Colorado, and the hardworking teachers at my kids’ school now, and I feel inspired to lend my support as I am able.

Today is Giving Tuesday, a day where people all over the world celebrate generosity and make an impact by supporting causes that mean the most to them. During this pandemic season, the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas remains fully committed to the mission to which our Lord calls us. Lives are touched, disciples are formed, and the Good News of Jesus Christ is heard in so many ways across West Texas, including in our camping ministries, world mission partnerships, campus ministries, and more. I hope you’ll think about the places, spaces, and people who bring you and yours joy and consider lending your support during this season of miracles.

We invite you make a gift today in support of the ongoing and adapting ministries of the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas, at dwtx.org/give. Thank you to the many who have already donated this year. For more information, please contact Anne Spears,Development Director, at anne.spears@dwtx.org.

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