The Rapidian

Ethics and Religion Talk: What are you grateful for? Part 1

Leading up to Thanksgiving next week, I invited the Ethics and Religion Talk panel to answer the question: ‘In the past year, what is the one thing in your life, in your community, in the world near or far, for which you are the most grateful?’ Here is the first set of responses. More next week!

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].

We welcome the Reverend Rachel J. Bahr, pastor of Plymouth UCC, to the panel. She replaces the recently retired Reverend Doug Van Doren. Her response:

“My wife and I were married February 18, 2018, and it certainly was a mountaintop experience for which I am truly grateful. This was five and a half years in the making, because when we first met this was not a legal possibility. Generations of same-gender-loving people have carried the sacred light which has transformed the worlds and its laws. In the name of all those in LGBTQI community who fought to liberate our nation and our churches, we honored those who made this day possible with a candle-lighting ceremony at our wedding. I firmly believe that the love that God places between two people can transform a community. I have seen such transformation come to pass with my own eyes. I have seen transgender youth aglow as a church sang the prayer, ‘Take, O, take me as I am. Summon out what I shall be.’ I have seen folks who lived decades under misogynistic misconceptions and homophobic misinterpretations of the Bible, suddenly awaken to the truer meaning and truest love of scripture. In moments when our communities are being terrorized, celebrating moments of joy is an act of resistance.”

R. Scot Miller, who writes from an Anabaptist and Quaker Christian perspective, responds: 

“I am most grateful in my life for a God who liberated me from bondage to mental illness and addiction to allow me to love my wife and children, to take a shower when I need it, to have food in my belly, and vehicles that get me to work more often than not. We often have enough money for heat, we always have electric, and sometimes get to go to visit family in Detroit or leave the farm for a weekend. I have been homeless and hurting. I am grateful that I am no longer making poor choices regarding substances and meds after my experience of here and now salvation.

“I am grateful for my community and the safety we accord one another so that we do not experience the public violence that other nations or communities must endure on a daily basis. I am grateful for what appears to be a community of civility, in all of my experiences of Barry County and Hastings.

“In the world near and far, I am grateful for the past year and the constant amazement I have in those of God’s creatures who sacrifice on behalf of the other. There are to many stories that make the story of Christ credible to mention. The church may die, but the Spirit of Assembly in His name will endure forever.”

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

“As I reflect on this past year, I am most grateful for the simple pleasures of life. From watching the sunrise and the lengthening of days to the arrival of fall and the sun fading earlier in the day. I have commented to co-workers and friends many times on the beauty all around from the many animals I often see on my frequent train trips to Chicago to the pesky chipmunks that destroyed many of my tomatoes to the bees buzzing around the flowers of my vegetables to the stunning heirloom morning glories that are my favorite. I am often transfixed by the aroma of fresh bread baking in the oven to the joy of preparing dinner on the grill and eating outdoors.

“None of the above are costly and all of them reflect the face of God shining upon us. When people ask me how I am doing I have joyfully responded… life is good! Living each day to the fullest and taking in the joys of life are things for which I am truly grateful!”

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

“I am most grateful for all acts of kindness. I think our country needs to show more kindness to those in need. I fear our society is getting crueler and more narcissistic.

“My favorite scripture passage in from Matthew 25:35-36, ‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Each one of these gestures is a simple act of kindness. When I see or witness people modeling these behaviors I am most grateful.”


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 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].

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