Emmanuel, God Within Us, God With Us
by the Rev. Heather Melton, Staff Officer for the United Thank Offering
As Episcopalians we often talk about how we are “Easter people,” but I’m really an Advent person. Advent is the reminder that God is constantly breaking into our lives, our hearts, and our world. It is a time to create space for the new work that we are invited to do, partnering with God and with our communities in loving, life-giving, and liberating ways to set all of us free. UTO was founded to support innovative mission and ministry that the Church budget hadn’t expanded yet to fund through a daily spiritual discipline of gratitude. We’ve reached that time of year when we send out grant applications and the Board anxiously awaits the opportunity to learn about the new projects that God is doing with you and to figure out how UTO can support you in this wonderful work. This year, all of the grant materials and the application will be available on our website on the first Friday of
December, and completed applications will be due from your diocese on the first Friday of March. This gives you an extra month to work on your applications, to ask for help at one of our webinars, or to check in with us. As always, I am here to help, so feel free to text, email, call, or Facebook messenger me! In the meantime, thanks to all of you for the good things that God is doing in your lives, communities, and congregations, and thank you for showing up and embracing the Spirit.
Merry Christmas from the staff, the Board, and our families! We hope you have a blessed season and a very happy new year.
Emptying and Advent
by Kathy Mank, UTO Board, Financial Secretary
Advent is here! Is Advent a preparation to receive Jesus into our hearts? Is it actually a penitential season when we contemplate the reign of God in the here and now and God’s design to bring justice and peace to our world? Perhaps both. Each year, contemplating Jesus’ birth narrative represents less of a gift to me and more of an emptying of God into the world for all those who will notice. Allow me to make a Blue Box analogy: we empty our Blue Boxes, which represent the tangible collection of God’s blessings in gratitude, to bring about God’s justice in the form of life-giving and liberating ministry grants throughout the world.
In practice, the UTO operates on a calendar year for the ingathering and granting cycles. We ask diocesan coordinators and parish coordinators to submit their ingathering collections – postmarked by December 31 – to the UTO lockbox in St. Louis, Missouri for credit in 2016. (Click here for complete address information.)
Similarly, we ask individual donors at the ingathering to send contributions postmarked by December 31 for acknowledgement in the 2016 calendar year. Credit card contributions are accepted here up to 11:59 p.m. on December 31 for credit in 2016. Guess who contributed via credit card for the 2015 Episcopal Migration Ministries challenge and ingathering on December 31?
One way of looking at year-end donations that reduce taxable income is as a blessing of more to give as a result of the tax savings. The UTO sincerely appreciates your partnership with us in our ministry of thanksgiving and gratitude and gives many thanks for the blessing that all of you are to us and the ministries infused with your gratitude. Happy Advent!
2015 Grant Site Update: Journey of Hope, Diocese of Utah
by Virginia Ward, Program Director & Legal Advocate
At Journey of Hope, we provide loving support and friendship through mentoring and case management for women who are homeless, victims of abuse or trafficking, struggling with substance abuse or mental illness, on parole or probation, or leaving justice supervision. These women need safe housing, food security, and employment. We use nationally recognized, evidence-based approaches – an understanding of gender and issues of diversity, relational communication, strength-based communication, and a trauma-informed approach – to empower our clients to create a success plan.
The UTO support in our first year enabled us to get established, open our doors, create meaningful community partnerships, and begin to identify the best means to increase services to our clients. The blessing of this great gift will be felt for years to come, and now 220 walk-in clients and 125 more leaving prison have something truly to be thankful for. We have the deepest gratitude for the opportunity to help women get right-footed on their own Journey of Hope.
To read more about Journey of Hope, look for us on the web at https://www.facebook.com/JourneyofHopeUtah/ or http://www.journeyofhopeutah.org/.
We are here for the women, together! Donate or volunteer with us today by visiting http://journeyofhopeutah.org/donate.html.
Embracing Gratitude and Changing the Culture
Recently, our staff received an email about a church in Maine whose members restarted UTO, and with their permission, we are sharing their story with you.
From: Tracy Shaffer, ECW, St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church, Ellsworth, Maine
Our late-summer UTO ingathering has concluded, and our treasurer advised me yesterday that the check sent to UTO totaled $705.28. We are a small parish and have not incorporated UTO into our corporate worship for some time, so we are pleased with the offering and grateful for the experience that this offered to us.
More importantly, we were pleased to use the materials, including the attractive brochure, bookmark, and prayer booklet, to help make our offering part of our daily spiritual practice. We really stressed the concept of giving thanks for a daily blessing and found that it helped many of us focus on positive ways the Lord shows up in our lives. Given our current national and world landscape, it was a wonderful shift in focus.
Our clergy helped us with the ingathering by ensuring that our service bulletins included a UTO prayer each week on the front cover from the prayer booklet. Also, we incorporated a blessing card that parishioners could add to the offering plate each week to cite a particular blessing. These were read by our priest as part of our Eucharistic service and then were placed on a UTO bulletin board downstairs that was crafted by our deacon. At our final offering Sunday, people brought forward their boxes to be part of our offering, and then we had a celebration coffee hour.
Thank you so much for these materials and for your help with our campaign.
We look forward to doing the ingathering again next summer. Being on the coast, it is a great way to engage our summer parishioners as well as those living here year-round.
Forward to a friend
Friday, December 2, 2016 –
The focus and criteria for the 2017 UTO Grants, as well as the applications, will be available on the UTO webpage
Saturday, December 31, 2016 –
Last day to mail in UTO Ingathering checks so they count toward the 2016 Ingathering, and last day to give online here. (Be sure to select “UTO” from the dropdown menu.)
Wednesday, January 11, 2017, 7 p.m. ET, and Thursday, January 12, 2017, 7 p.m. ET –
Webinar on the UTO grant process for those who are interested in applying and want help with their applications. Join us on Zoom (click here) or by telephone by dialing +1 408-638-0968 or +1 646-558-8656, Meeting ID: 814 040 8194.
Friday, March 3, 2017, 5 p.m. Eastern Time –
Deadline for submission of UTO Grant applications
Request for Prayers for the 2018 UTO Prayer Booklet
Sandra Squires, UTO Board President
As you may know, every three years, the United Thank Offering gathers original prayers from around the Episcopal Church to create a pocket book of prayers that is available at General Convention. Last Convention, we were able to collect 125 prayers of gratitude in honor of 125 years of the United Thank Offering. This year, we are hoping to collect original prayers from nine categories: gratitude, guidance, fear/danger, forgiveness, healing, loneliness, crisis/dealing with disappointment or crisis, love of God, and other. Children, women, men, clergy, seminarians, or groups may write prayers for this edition of the booklet. We welcome prayers from every diocese and province of the Episcopal Church. Prayers can be submitted in any language and in any format – collect, litany, free form, or prose. We encourage you to listen to the Holy Spirit and write a prayer to be used throughout the
Church by individuals, for the opening or closing of meetings, or in a variety of settings.
Please submit all prayers by July 1, 2017. All prayers must be submitted using this webpage. More information about the project can also be found there.
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