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Ethics and Religion Talk: This Thanksgiving, What are You Grateful For?

The Ethics and Religion Talk panel wishes you a Happy Thanksgiving, and responds to the questions, “What are you most thankful for this year?”

What is Ethics and Religion Talk?

“Ethics and Religion Talk,” answers questions of ethics or religion from a multi-faith perspective. Each post contains three or four responses to a reader question from a panel of nine diverse clergy from different religious perspectives, all based in the Grand Rapids area. It is the only column of its kind. No other news site, religious or otherwise, publishes a similar column.

The first five years of columns, published in the Grand Rapids Press and MLive, are archived at More recent columns can be found on by searching for the tag “ethics and religion talk.”

We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up on the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

For more resources on interfaith dialogue and understanding, see the Kaufman Interfaith Institute page and their weekly Interfaith Insight column at

Father Kevin Niehoff, O.P., a Dominican priest who serves as Judicial Vicar, Diocese of Grand Rapids, responds:

I am most grateful for scientists and public health officials who demonstrate a strong desire to respect human life as we struggle through a pandemic, the likes of which have never been seen by anyone living today. I concluded many months ago that the virus that causes COVID-19 is not going away with wishful thinking.

The successful eradication of the virus causing this pandemic requires each of us to do our part. I am further grateful that God has given human beings the intellect to solve problems in our world like the pandemic. How blessed we are to live in this time and place! How good it is to witness God’s abundant mercy!

Imam Kip Curnutt, Director of Religious Education and Associate Imam of Masjid At-Tawheed in Grand Rapids, responds:

As human beings we tend to give most of our attention to the problems in the world rather than the things that are running smoothly. This is for good reason as it is the problems that need our effort and attention to solve. However, we shouldn't let that destract us from all that we have to be thankful for. I think this year and every year it is important to remember that there are countless favors and blessings from God that we are unaware of and don't even notice. Every atom in our body that acts according to design is a blessing.  So this year I want to say I am thankful to God for the countless blessings He has sent my way enriching my life even though I may not have recognized them.

The Rev. Sandra Nikkel, head pastor of Conklin Reformed Church, responds:

What am I thankful for? Oh, let me count the ways...I'm thankful for my health, my church, my children and my friends. I'm thankful that God provides for me more abundantly than I deserve. I'm thankful that God is teaching me to trust in Him more than I trust in myself. I'm thankful that God is teaching me to follow his wisdom and abandon mine. And I'm thankful that He is teaching me to love myself and others.

The Reverend Colleen Squires, minister at All Souls Community Church of West Michigan, a Unitarian Universalist Congregation, responds:

I am most grateful for all the helpers of the world, those who care for the sick and dying. I am grateful for all those who wear their masks, and those who have been vaccinated. I am grateful for all the people who understand that we are in this together and who work for the greater good so that all people can thrive. 

Linda Knieriemen, Senior Pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Holland, responds:

  • Covid vaccines, 
  • health care workers, 
  • people who wear voluntarily wear masks even though they aren’t comfortable and glasses steam up!

The Rev. Rachel J. Bahr, pastor of Plymouth UCC, responds:

The number one thing that I am grateful for this past year was the incredible work of so many that went into making the COVID-19 vaccines accessible to all. The incredible gratitude I feel for the scientists, the doctors and nurses, and the wider medical personnel that have worked tirelessly is incomparable to anything I have experienced before.

The Rev. Steven W. Manskar, a retired United Methodist pastor, responds:

  • I am thankful for physicians, nurses, aids, technologists, and everyone working in hospitals caring for people suffering with COVID-19. I’m thankful for their courage and dedication to caring for and healing people.
  • I am thankful for Emergency Medical Technicians, ambulance drivers, police officers, fire fighters, and all other first responders who risk their lives and work to protect everyone in the community.
  • I am thankful for all the teachers, school administrators, and support staff in all the schools who have given their best to teach, encourage, and inspire their students and their families during this pandemic.
  • I am thankful for all the people who working in grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, restaurants and all the services that helped our community get through the pandemic.
  • I am thankful for researchers and scientists who develop vaccines that save lives. I am thankful for God who inspires and provides the knowledge, commitment to reduce human suffering, and technology that makes vaccines and medicines possible.
  • I am thankful for the U. S. Government that provides the COVID-19 vaccines free to everyone who wants to protect themselves and their community. I am thankful for the pharmaceutical companies, local officials, and volunteers who distribute the vaccines to the people who need them. I’m also thankful the U. S. Government is working with other wealthy nations and donating millions of vaccine doses to poor nations.
  • I am thankful for or all the public health officials who work tirelessly to protect everyone from disease and misinformation.

My response:

  • I am thankful for advances in science that produced a life-saving vaccine against a pandemic virus.
  • I am thankful for the small delights in life, like watching a puppy discover the world for the first time and realizing which crumbs on the floor are good to eat.
  • I am thankful for my general good health and that I have the resources to see a doctor whenever needed.
  • I am thankful for a family that supports each other during difficult times.
  • I am grateful for a spouse who always has my back.
  • I am grateful for Thanksgiving as a reminder to be thankful for everything, large and small, that blesses my life.
  • And I am grateful for Hanukkah as a reminder that in dark times of oppression, we can choose the path of light and ignite sparks of joy in the world.

This column answers questions of Ethics and Religion by submitting them to a multi-faith panel of spiritual leaders in the Grand Rapids area. We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up in the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

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