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Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter, and UTO Grant Sites

by the Rev. Heather Melton, Staff Officer for the United Thank Offering

One of the things that Episcopalians are known to say is that we are Easter people. Easter people live in the resurrection and believe in finding Christ risen and among us, or at least I think that’s what they mean. I’ve always found this a difficult statement in our Church because, often, I’m not sure we’ve really thought about what it means. As we head toward the end of Lent, in order to think about being an Easter People, we really need to think about what it means to be a Holy Week people. My liturgics professor, the Rev. Dr. Louis Weil, once said that Holy Week is to be experienced each day as it unfolds. To pay attention to the detail of that day, stay with it and don’t look at it as if you know what’s happening next. This is always my Holy Week tradition: to really stay present in each moment, in each liturgy, and to really sit and watch with Jesus and the disciples as they move through each event. (Palm Sunday, when we read the Passion narrative, really complicates this discipline, but just ignore that until Friday.) Over the years this discipline has really changed how I see our lives as Easter people, and I find that it really gives us a paradox in the Episcopal Church to wrestle with. If we are to truly be Easter people, if we are to truly let Jesus be resurrected within us, among us, and in spite of us, then we have to go through Good Friday and Holy Saturday. Things will come to an end, things will die, things will be painful and hard. We’ll feel a little lost, lonely, and scared. Then Holy Saturday comes. Jesus’ body is prepared and left in the tomb. We’ll work alongside those who loved him and now care for his body. Maybe we’ll wonder what is next as we tend to our work, maybe we’ll make plans, maybe we’ll see that now our work begins. The next day, some will brave the outdoors and find that Jesus isn’t where he’s supposed to be. (I always love when the Presiding Bishop talks about how, if it weren’t for the sisters who were willing to go out to the grave, we wouldn’t know that Jesus was risen.) That will bring confusion, searching, hope, and maybe some fear, but definitely a lot of questions. Finally, it’s Easter and we meet Jesus again, resurrected and among us. We can feel relief, joy, excitement, all the good feelings that new life brings. For so many of us, we are so afraid of the Good Friday moments that we never get to Easter.

One of my favorite books on congregational life is called Sacred Cows Make Gourmet Burgers. It’s a book about the “but we’ve always done it that way” thinking that can often lead to decline in our congregations, a lack of new leaders in our ministries, and burn-out among leadership in all of the orders of the Church. Tradition is good and important, but when tradition becomes a barrier to resurrection, then it’s a problem. As many of you know, my background is in congregational redevelopment. I love helping struggling small parishes find their way forward. That has meant that some churches have closed, others have merged, and some have grown into a new thing. What I have found is that congregations that are not afraid of things dying are most likely to experience new life, new ministry, and new hope. Those that refuse to brave the Good Friday moments will not get to Easter, because you can’t have resurrection and new life without something dying first.

One of the things that I have grown to love about UTO is that many of our grants are to congregations that have experienced and lived through a Good Friday moment. They’re now on Holy Saturday, reaching out to UTO in hope of partnership so that they can step forward into Easter morning a resurrected people living as a sign of love and life to their community and our Church. Our grant sites are brave. They are taking chances, trying something new, and dreaming big dreams. They are signs of resurrection and new life, signs of Jesus moving just out ahead of us and calling us to join him in the work all around us. As Lent comes to an end, in the midst of the Board reviewing the 2017 grant applications, I just want you all to know how grateful I am for the work of UTO. I am so grateful that our blessings show up each year to stand with folks who are experiencing resurrection – people who are transforming their congregations and communities into something new. I am overwhelmed by their creativity, their bravery, and their hope that God is in the midst of them in spite of the challenges they are facing. I hope you’ll join me this Holy Week and work to be really present as the days unfold and give thanks for each day. I hope you’ll look at your community and give thanks (with your Blue Box of course!) for the good things that God is doing in your congregation and look for where Jesus is just up ahead of you on the road, waiting for you. I hope you’ll join me in remembering the words of the angel at the tomb as you move forward in life and ministry: “Do not be afraid, Jesus has been raised from the dead and has gone out ahead of you to Galilee, go and meet him there.”

The Covenant of the Blue Box

by Sandra Squires, UTO Board President

What is the “covenant of the Blue Box”? It’s a promise, a deal, a trust, a treaty.

We, the UTO Board, make a promise that every penny given to UTO, mostly through people using their Blue Boxes, is given for ministry during the next year. That’s the covenant. Nothing but ministry. No postage, no coordinator expenses, no UTO Board travel, no using the Blue Box for other worthy organizations, no holding on to the money and not sending it in to UTO.

Okay, so as you read this, you realize you’ve broken that covenant – say you spent money on postage out of Ingathering funds. You are not a bad person, you just didn’t think of the Blue Box collection as a covenant. You are forgiven, but you must make amends. Put the money spent back into the Ingathering collection, even if it has to come out of your own pocket, and resolve not to do it again. Then, move on and thank God for learning from your mistakes – a good reason to drop a coin in the Blue Box! When I was first involved at my parish level, I did not completely get how this worked, which I continue to be reminded of by the good women of our Board. If you need financial support for UTO, please ask for funding through your church or diocesan budget. The work of the UTO Board, all of our promotional materials, and our staff are paid for through trust fund income and money in the budget of the Church determined at General Convention.

If we expect people to truly believe in a theology of thankfulness or giving with gratitude, we have to honor the covenant of the Blue Box, that UTO Ingathering money goes for its intended purpose – grants for ministry approved by the United Thank Offering Board.

As a child I gave money to my “mite box” in the Lutheran Church and in Sunday school. From those early lessons, I became a lifelong giver. Had I even dreamed then that my pennies would not have reached their intended destination, I would have felt deceived. A promise would have been broken, and I doubt whether I would continue to give money to ministry.

We are witnesses to many broken promises, treaties, and covenants in today’s world, but I hope you will hold precious the covenant of the Blue Box – every penny that comes to UTO is given for ministry that very next year. We are careful stewards of your giving in gratitude, and we are continually thankful for your generosity and trust.

Grant Site Update: St. Gabriel’s, Polynesia

Diocese of Los Angeles

Many UTO grants that go to our partners in the Anglican Communion help to build churches in places where people are without a church building. These buildings then serve many other purposes during the week, from schools and hospitals to clinics for physical therapy and gathering places for job training and support. This week, we received an update on St. Gabriel’s in Polynesia. This was a grant that was awarded back in 2012, and the construction process has encountered more struggles then you can imagine. But with the hope and help of UTO, the building will be completed and open for worship by the end of the summer. St. Gabriel’s will offer worship for a wonderful and vibrant community of faith and will serve as a community center for gathering, formation, training, and organizing. We can’t wait to see the completed building!

Small Churches Do UTO in Big Ways

Calumet Episcopal Ministry Partnership, Diocese of Northern Indiana

by Pat Kincaid

In Northwest Indiana, St. Paul Episcopal Church is one of five parishes in the Calumet Episcopal Ministry Partnership in the Diocese of Northern Indiana. Our numbers are small, but we enjoy a multitude of talents among our parishioners. For the month of February, money raised from the sale of handmade “Puppy Love” puppies was designated to UTO. As Lent began in March, a list of “Top 10 Things to Do During Lent” included “Make a Donation to UTO” as a suggestion. Then, the UTO newsletter had an idea about reusing mini-M&Ms tubes as coin collectors for UTO, so that idea was announced as an April suggestion, along with the familiar UTO Blue and White Boxes, zippered pouches, and envelopes. By the end of April, we will have completed our Lenten journeys and celebrated Easter with both love and gratefulness for the many blessings bestowed on us by Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, knowing that our UTO offering helped to keep us focused on mission, too.

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June 2017 – 2017 UTO Grants will be announced once approved by the Board and Executive Council

First Friday in September: Young Adult and Seminarian Grant Applications available


New Center for Distribution Starting May 1

The UTO Board and Staff are pleased to announce that we’ll be moving our distribution center to Navajoland starting May 1st.  This means during April things might run out of stock. We thank you for your patience during this month of transition. More information will be in our May Newsletter as we finish working out the details, however, beginning May 1, orders can be placed here.

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 beginning 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.

Call for Educational Resources

Please remember that we are collecting any ideas for ways to promote UTO in a parish or diocese. Please send all of your ideas for a new resource guide to

Thank you for your help!


Check out Jeanne King, UTO Coordinator for the Diocese of Missouri in this podcast from the Diocese of Missouri!

Send us your stories!

We want to hear from you and share how UTO works in your church or how your grant project is going! Please send articles for the e-newsletter to Heather along with a photo.

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