It was probably 30 years ago when we experienced an outburst in worship that has always remained with me. During the offering, as the mellow music was providing background, a young voice announced quietly, but audibly, and persistently, “I wanna give an offering!” As you can imagine, as the offering plates were passed throughout the congregation, the small voice became larger, the persistence became an insistence, until the child was taken out of the sanctuary, presumably for behavior unfit for worship.
I have since then always heard that voice echoing in my head during the passing of the collection plates. It is the faithful crying out that can be mined from the spiritual depths of each of us. I am convinced that generosity and participation and the expression of gratitude and faith reside within each of us, healthy impulses that help to define us as children of God, and members of a community that is the body of Christ.
This is a powerful characteristic throughout our lives. I recall my grandmother, in her late 90’s, aging with class and a strong spirit even though she had known loss, with her greatest lament being that she no longer had resources to make even a meager offering to her church, and in her theology, to her God. “I wanna give an offering” is the faithful refrain we do well to heed throughout out lives.
I mention this because, after 2 Covid-influenced years, we are returning to a physical, in person offering as a part of our worship. The gold-colored plates are again being passed, and the opportunity to act on our “I wanna give an offering” returns.
Bethany is doing so not as a fundraising gimmick, nor are we doing so in the hope that this will require the pastor to cut the sermon short because of the extra element in worship. We aren’t passing the plates so as to satisfy the loose offering line in the budget, nor to shame people into giving in a public way (nor to “show off”). We give an offering, or “return to God” an offering, because that is an essential part of our worship! It is rooted in acknowledging God’s goodness, and responding in gratitude… the stuff of worship and praise.
We at Bethany can with great honesty say this. Last year, in the heart of the pandemic, when we suspended “in person” offering, our giving exceeded projections, the generosity was astounding given that people needed to find ways (mail, direct deposit, stopping by the office) to give their offering. And 2022 seems more of the same. Thank you!
And now we are properly, in our duty and delight, restoring this practice where it belongs…in WORSHIP. Yes, we still encourage regular and faithful and generous financial giving in all forms, not just Saturday and Sunday worship. But in worship we will incorporate this giving, responding to the crying out within each of us: “I wanna give an offering!”