At our third community Eucharist here at General Convention, we invited people to put $1 at the foot of the font. A picture is just below. By the end of the service there were checks, and $10 bills. We don’t know if anyone will pick this up but it might be even better if it just sits there as a testimony of our gifts and perhaps our issues with them. Actually, later I was informed that this was collected, put in a box, and taken to the controllers office (what a very appropriate name and place for it to go!)
During the service, in which we celebrated Harriet Beecher Stowe, and were treated to a rousing sermon by Bishop Michael Curry of North Carolina, in which he stated his title, “we need more crazy Christians” we once again were not offered the chance to give a monetary offering. After three days, complaints from the floors, and the knowledge the worship team does know this, nothing. I was later to confirm that the customary for convention Eucharists directs the worship team only to take an offering on Sunday, a fact that has never been shared with anyone when the questions have been asked here until last night. Not even a basket out by the entrances, nothing. It makes it look like we would rather talk about changing the world, rather than offering a tangible gift, a sacrifice, however small, so that it might actually be put into action.
Just moments after the sermon, which was given a standing ovation and deserved it, because we do like words, we like to dream about what we might do, it was acknowledged by host Bishop Catharine Waynick of Indianapolis, and Presider for the day, that there had been some concern that no offerings were being taken. There was a pretty resounding applause after she said that indicating that the few following this are not the only ones that have noticed, but she went on to say we all would have two chances to give, to be generous, tomorrow for the UTO and then immediately afterward for the Indianapolis Day scheduled after worship where all the proceeds, ever dollar spent, will go to support their companion diocese ministries. I plan to be very generous at both of these. And let me be clear here, it has to be quite frustrating for Bishop Waynick too as she is one of the great stewardship bishops, outspoken, clear in our House about all of this. What is being communicated through our liturgy and the extreme inertia and resistance to an offering is that we have chosen to live in the scarcity of our Episcopal ways, that our “craziness” has a lot of work yet.
This is my concern: we are so scarce that we have to “control” the giving. It is clear now that time has nothing to do with this, it is instead about a bit of manipulation, and fear. We are being manipulated in the hopes of giving only to that which whoever the powers at be want it to be, and the fear is the fear of abundance, that we ask too much for money, that it is tainted and perhaps even evil in some way.
We are a church that has committed itself to giving 10 million dollars to Haiti and have not gotten close as of yet. We are a church that is rife with declining resources for outreach to the world in other areas, and yet we cannot find it in ourselves to offer the chance for those worshiping to give.
The Committee which I Chair for the House of Bishops, and Co-Chair for convention with Ms. Patricia Abrams of Chicago wrote a resolution, now named DO65 and entitled “Taking an Offering at All Eucharists.” It is amazing quite frankly that we have found the need to put forth such a resolution, but we have. It is also somewhat interesting that I had to fight to prove that this resolution was not filed past the deadline, which I was first told, only to find it has not been assigned a committee. (The way this works is if the presiding officers do not assign it in time, it will never be considered, perhaps that is where this is headed) The point is not the amount, but the act itself, and in this context not providing a way for those worshiping to give monetarily.
What is at work here? One lay deputy from Delaware opined that she would not be giving even if we did take an offering and she surely would not be giving as we had asked, because she was giving all to UTO. That is her prerogative as it is everyone’s. No one has to give, any time, any place, but in the context of our Eucharistic feast the opportunity should be provided by those who are organizing such. It is such scarcity to believe that this convention should be rather “herded” into only giving to the Indianapolis event or to UTO. We should be, and are, bigger than that.
So, I call on our “give in” to continue, every day, at the font. Let’s continue to give, even if the planners of worship and other organizers feel the need to live in scarcity and fear.
By the way, there are Starbucks in all the hotels here, and the picture below is of all those standing in the line right after worship today. I could not get them all in, and every one of the Starbucks look like this at least three times a day. I wonder how much is being spent here? It is great for the Seattle economy for which I am grateful, but I am also called to give the same, some of my treasure I have been given, back to something beyond me, and us.
WE are called to that, but at this, our General Convention, we have been denied that possibility in much of our worship. I know many of you would like me to get off this, talk about some of the other “important” stuff going on here, and I will. But, as absurd as it sounds, I think this is pretty darn important, and says a lot about us, … just call me crazy!
On a more humorous note, along with all of us Episcopalians here the Hoosier Muscle competition went on in the same convention center, so yesterday we had all of these really buff women and men walking in the midst of all of us, I hate to say it, but I include myself, kind of roly poly Episcopalians. It was a great vision of diversity and cause for reflection on what strength really is!