If you have followed my General Convention blogs over the years you know that one of the fundamental disconnects for me here, considering a Church, a legislative body of a church, that comes together every three years, ringing its hands over money does nothing about taking an offering doing Eucharist. As in most parts of the church, we seem reluctant, if not completely unwilling to look at money as a spiritual issue. We have incarnated that a General Conventions by totally neglecting any monetary offering at daily Eucharists.
In Indianapolis no version of the offering was being taken. We held the Eucharist every day, thousands showed up, and we never asked an offering, put a basket out, nothing. We were arguing all day long, as we always do, about justice, and greed, and the proper stewardship of our money, and yet no offering, no liturgical act, surrounded by prayer, was occurring. At that convention, literally, just outside the doors of the worship space was a Starbucks, a franchise near and dear to where our diocese resides, and the line was never short. I wrote a blog then entitled “Starbucks Wins” because it was scoring thousands and yet in our worship we were ignoring the act of giving to something outside ourselves. So, at that convention I invited people to lay their donations at the foot of the baptismal font, which so many did. The convention planners were not at all sure what to do with the money that laid there after each service, which was a visual metaphor for the way we most often look at and treat money.
In Salt Lake City, we had evolved to a basket being placed at the back of the worship space for offerings. It was a move. I don’t remember anyone stating where the offerings went, nor how much we took in. Again, mostly we avoided it.
At this convention, the baskets are there, and now we are attempting a text donation as a possibility, although this failed to work for most at the first attempt but it will, and we are now stating the recipients of the offerings. This, for me, is big. You will probably not read about it anywhere else, and it will most likely be ignored by many, but for a a substantial number is an important part of worship, their piety, and our collective work here at convention. While my wife Marti and I stood there at the back of the “church” holding the baskets ourselves to take up to the altar, so many came running toward us to put their offering in the basket. They came with urgency. it was important for them to give.
It is easy to be working at this convention, especially this time, and forget that the world is on fire around us. So much of what we do here, in my belief, is self absorbed naval gazing. Being an organizational “wonk” of sorts myself, I know we have to do some of that, but the classic reaction to the anxiety around an exterior world we do not know how to control is to to create “interior emergencies” as distractions. We do have a few of those, but they are not the usual suspects.
This church’s relationship to money, the spirituality of it in our lives, is important. One thing I am always frustrated with, and it jumps out in so many ways at General Convention, is the way this church worries, frets, avoids, denies the power of money in our lives most days, but then uses it here to make the point about importance, with often no thought, preparation, or plan. When we do that, we are not being good stewards of what has been given to us to oversee.
I am thankful for these changes. It is a good thing, and has been a ray of sunshine in what has often seemed disconnected to the needs we so passionately discuss here.
Walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God.