At diocesan convention each year, one delegate always finds our UTO table to make a sizable donation to the Ingathering. This individual has lived in a few states where UTO has provided both life- and game-changing ministry grants. Every year, this person’s blessings are intentionally collected and a return is given to God in thanksgiving and in gratitude – in the form of a contribution to the UTO Ingathering.
Keith Green’s lyrics come to mind (dating myself in age and theology): “To obey is better than sacrifice, I don’t want your money, I want your life” – where “I” is God. In this season of Epiphany, we contemplate our relationship with a forgiving and gracious God who desires every part of us, is ready to give us abundant life, and is yearning for us to seek after the star to find God in unexpected places. When we give our lives to God, we are giving everything, including our treasure, as a sign of our gratitude that everything is simply given to us from God to support our participation in bringing about God’s Kingdom here on earth.
In Turning My Mourning into Dancing, Henri Nouwen writes, “Perhaps nothing helps us make the movement from our little selves to a larger world than remembering God in gratitude. Such a perspective puts God in view in all of life, not just in the moments we set aside for worship or spiritual disciplines. Not just in the moments when life seems easy.” From this perspective, UTO provides a unique way to return to God in thanksgiving and in gratitude an intentional portion of our richest blessings.
For 2018, as we begin a new year, I invite you to plan for the two traditional Ingathering Sundays at your congregation. Our congregation has chosen May 6 (the Sunday close to Ascension Day) and November 4 (the Sunday close to All Saints’ Day). Be mindful to send in all donations in a timely fashion so they can be included in the correct calendar year and so our staff can send tax acknowledgement forms, if needed. If you are a diocesan coordinator, find out when your diocesan convention will be held and where. Connect with the planning team and hold a special UTO Ingathering celebration at convention. Encourage neighboring parishes to start UTO if they don’t currently participate, and invite them to join in one of our Lenten programs with you. Prepare by using your own Blue Box daily with prayers of thanksgiving and gratitude. In the midst of all this, know that my heart is full of gratitude for all of you and for all of the ways you participate, support, and promote UTO.