Our guest blogger for today is the Rev. Heather Melton, who serves as the Coordinator of the United Thank Offering.
For the past 8 days, this blog has shared stories from different voices to help draw attention and awareness to the Sixteen Days of Activism against Violence against Women. As I read these blogs and reflected on the deep sadness and pain that violence of any kind has caused in our world, I, perhaps like you, began to feel overwhelmed and wondered what any of us could do about any of it. It would be easy enough to turn away from this discussion at the end of the sixteen days. Easy to return to our lives and forget in the busy nature of Advent the pain of violence in our communities around the world, but we as Christians were not called to an easy path. As Episcopalians, we do not have the luxury to turn away because we promise through our Baptismal Covenant, that with God’s help, we will strive for justice and peace. Archbishop Desmond Tutu says it best in my favorite book, God has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time:
Dear Child of God, do you realize that God needs you? Do you realize that you are God’s partner? When there is someone hungry, God wants to perform the miracle of feeding that person. But it won’t any longer be through manna falling from heaven. Normally, more usually, God can do nothing until we provide God with the means, the bread and the fish, to feed the hungry. When a person is naked, God wants to perform the miracle of clothing that person, but it won’t be with a Carducci suit or Calvin Klein outfit floating from heaven. No, it will be because you and I, all of us, have agreed to be God’s fellow workers, providing God with the raw material for performing miracles. There is a church in Rome with a statue of a Christ without arms. When you ask why, you are told that it shows how God relies on us, His human partners, to do His work for Him. Without us, God has no eyes; without us, God has no ears; without us, God has no arms. God waits upon us, and relies on us.
The words of Desmond Tutu are a helpful reminder that we cannot walk away from these sixteen days the same as we were when we started the journey. Someone once taught me the principle of “what, so what, now what”. We’ve heard the what, and now I want to invite you to consider the so what. So what do we do with what we’ve learned? How will these stories offer transformation to structures of violence in our communities and around the world? How will we answer God’s waiting? The fourth mark of mission calls us to seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation. We cannot wait for someone else to stand up against violence; we must each do it, working together as God’s human partners. The United Thank Offering is here to support you in your walk with Christ to overcome violence.
For almost 125 years, the United Thank Offering has collected funds given in gratitude by Episcopalians in “blue boxes” and distributed the money to support innovative ministries in the church. Each year, the United Thank Offering Board determines priorities for granting to address an area that is in need of attention and funding in our communities. In 2014, we invite you to consider how your congregation or diocese seeks to overcome violence and apply for a United Thank Offering grant to support this important work. Information concerning the granting process and the priorities can be found here. The 2014 grant application will be available on January 3, 2014 and the deadline to submit your application is February 28.
Perhaps you aren’t ready to embark on a new mission or ministry to address violence at your church in 2014. Then I invite you to start (or invigorate) your United Thank Offering in your parish to help raise funds to support those ministries that will work to overcome violence thanks to the support of a grant from the United Thank Offering. For more information on starting or further increasing your United Thank Offering please visit our webpage. Together, as Archbishop Tutu reminds us, as human partners with God, we hope to overcome violence, one grateful coin placed in a blue box at a time.
Many thanks to Heather and the UTO Board for their ministry and leadership!