On behalf of the board of directors and staff at The Episcopal Network for Stewardship we send our prayers and hopes for health, peace, and compassion in this time of crisis. Many of our members are facing challenges as the rapidly changing response to COVID-19 tests our communications, stresses our budgets, and inspires our compassion to be present with our neighbors.
In the coming weeks fewer people may be coming to your congregation, choosing to socially isolate or self-quarantine. Perhaps local jurisdictions or bishops have asked that gathering sizes be reduced, or that public service be suspended temporarily. As we move together in the coming weeks,
TENS offers a few best practices to prevent cash-flow crises from exacerbating the challenges we will have in keeping programs that benefit our communities running and the staff our congregations employ being paid through the near term.
- For congregations which already have electronic giving set up as an option for pledge redemption and offerings, this is a good chance to promote it, to remind your congregants that they can easily sustain ministry through online gifts.
- If you have not set up electronic giving yet, there are many options, and some of them take only minutes for your treasurer or someone with access to your accounts to set up. TENS recommends Tithe.ly. Click here to learn more.
- Consider other options for electronic payment, such as PayPal and VenMo.
- Keep your stewardship messaging about the mission. Your gifts are funding essential programs that your congregation offers to your neighbors
- Encourage members who are able, to pay off their pledges early to avoid a cash-flow contraction
- Remember to thank people for their generosity and encourage abundance in your community
If you have other tools, resources, or strategies that are working in your community, send in your questions and your comments to
. We will be addressing these issues in a Facebook Live conversation in the next few days. Look for an email and a Facebook invite in the coming days.
We are here to transform stewardship leaders, and to walk with you in your journey of stewardship. Let us know how we can help you!
J. Davey Gerhard III
Thinking Theologically about the Offertory
by Sarah Fisher
In this season of navigating the Coronavirus, many questions are arising for churches. How do we greet each other at the Peace? How shall we share the Lord’s Supper? Ought we suspend our use of the prayer book and hymnal, the sources of our common worship? Different dioceses are recommending different ways to be together at this time.
One question that we at TENS have been asked is what to do at the offertory. The passing of the offering plates is about far more than a source of revenue for our churches. The plates have become symbols of our deep desire and need to give back to God in thanksgiving for all that we've been given. The offering of our gifts and their presentation at the altar of God is an important moment in our liturgical life together.
There is, perhaps, no greater symbol of our life, love and labor that the money we choose to part with to build the Kingdom of God. The plates being brought forward, blessed and placed on the altar are a visual reminder of our response to God's generosity.
With the need to abstain from passing the plates from hand to hand, we offer a few ideas.
- Announce to people, both in newsletters and in the liturgy itself, that there is a change is being made. People like to know what's happening and why.
- Place the plate in a stationary place, either the back or the front of the church. If at all possible, avoid placing it where it appears to be a requirement to either enter the church or go to communion. There is no fee for our sacraments and we don't wish to give that impression. But as the old adage goes, the building always wins. You know your liturgical space, so you will make the best decision for the worshiping community in your parish.
- If your space allows, it may be possible for the ushers to circulate the plates without the need to pass them, so long as people can place their offering in the plate without making contact with it.
The Rev. Sarah Fisher is Rector of St. Catherine's Episcopal Church in Marietta, Georgia and a member of the TENS Board of Directors