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Gratitude Challenge

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

I work most mornings from a coffee shop down the street from where my twins attend preschool. I’ve always like working in coffee shops. I wrote my MA thesis in a Starbucks in Colorado, so the corner bar seat holds a special place in my heart. I like the noise, the movement, and the people watching. Oh and coffee, I really like coffee. I like coffee so much that I thank every barista I interact with to the point of it being comical. In fact, this morning they laughed at me because I thanked one of them for filling the milk for someone else. So, I asked them if folks thank them regularly or if I am an oddball that is really, really grateful for coffee. Turns out most folks don’t thank them. Maybe it’s because we’re so busy, maybe because we’re paying these nice young people that we don’t think to thank them for what they are doing since it’s their job. This whole exchange got me thinking … when we are out in the world being consumers, are we being grateful consumers?

In high school, I worked at the local Dairy Queen. It was a good job for a teenager and I enjoyed working there, but fast food (I’m so old the DQ was ice cream only and closed in the winter) is kind of a terrible job. As I sit here, I can remember being screamed at for making mistakes or not fully understanding what the customer was asking for, but I don’t actually remember anyone thanking me for making their order correctly. I only remember once being genuinely thanked for doing my job by a customer, and it was when I helped her carry her things out to a table. I remember it because it was so out of the ordinary and it was so genuine. I also probably remember it because I’m often that woman with two small people needing the help of strangers to get us to a table with our things.

I’m guessing that all of you reading this have had a job at one time or another that you did to make money or to move you closer to a goal or dream. I bet you probably remember the complaints when you were trying your best or you remember the really genuine thank you’s that you received. (And bless you twice if you work or worked in customer service answering phone calls.) Today I realized that, even though I’m paying for whatever it is I’m out in the world buying, I’m interacting with beloved children of God who are carrying their own burdens and stress, in spite of which they have showed up to work to (almost always) make my life easier, better, or more efficient. It’s easy to notice the hassle, the inefficiencies, the line, the wait, the whatever, but do we notice the people trying to overcome those things, the people who are trying to take care of our needs? I’m not sure I do, except when coffee or dining out with my children (because I’m seriously thankful for toddler-friendly restaurants). I think I just expect good service, good behavior, and good treatment, but just because we expect these things doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be grateful for the person offering it.

February is often thought of as the month of love thanks to Valentine’s Day, so let’s show some love. I challenge you to join me in thanking every person you interact with that is providing a service through his or her job. I will strive to thank everyone from my baristas to the man who gives out parking tickets. I hope you’ll join me and let me know what kind of responses you get, I’m finding that most people don’t expect to be thanked. I bet you’ll get some funny looks, but remember, so did Jesus.

Call for UTO Training Materials and Teaching Tools

by Birdie Blake-Reid, UTO Board Secretary

United Thank Offering (UTO) coordinators in parishes and dioceses, through their tireless volunteer efforts, have enriched the lives of women, men, and children throughout the world. They have supported and lifted up unique and creative ministries that have opened hearts, restored hope, and brought new believers to serve as Jesus’ hands and feet. This work, which dates back to 1889, has utilized a variety of methods and strategies to engage, encourage, and support others in this important work, which has grown significantly into a spiritual discipline and granting process. From the early days of letter campaigns, telephone outreach, breakfast and luncheon events, and meetings to the more recent use of electronic and social media, they have sought to cast a wide net in support of the UTO ministry.

The United Thank Offering Board is embarking upon a new project to codify the varied methods, strategies, training materials, and teaching tools used to further the mission of this ministry.

We invite you to:

  • Share the methods and sample training materials or teaching tools to mentor young women about joining the UTO ministry
  • Share training materials and an activity to foster the continuing development of constituents to deepen their spiritual practice of gratitude and thankfulness
  • Share the steps including training materials or teaching tools to plan or budget a parish, diocesan, or provincial Ingathering or UTO special event/activity
  • Share a timeline, training materials, or teaching tool to inform constituents of the annual UTO young adult and seminarian grant awards, including available resources

Through the collection of the above materials, current and future UTO volunteers will be guided by your wisdom, best practice tips, techniques, and strategies in building dynamic UTO mission focused individuals, congregations, dioceses, and provinces.

If you would like to participate, please email by Monday, April 3, 2017. Include your name, parish, diocese/province, address, telephone number, and the above identified Share area submission(s).

Thank you for continuing to work with us to build a better, more beautiful world through unceasing prayer, service, and giving.

2015 Grant Update: Renovating the Hospital in Nablus

by Sawsan Aranki-Batato, Programs Development Officer, Diocese of Jerusalem and the Middle East

Saint Luke’s Hospital, founded in Nablus in 1900, is a nonprofit charitable organization run by the Diocese of Jerusalem and the Middle East. It is considered a major partner to the health institutions in Nablus and an important and pioneering ministry pillar of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem.

The hospital aims to provide quality health care and job opportunities for all residents of Nablus and the surrounding villages, regardless of gender, color, social status, or ability to pay, with a focus on the poor and needy.

Saint Luke’s Hospital is known as one of the main providers of the highest-quality health care services for all people of Nablus. Through the hospital, the diocese has been working diligently to alleviate the suffering of the poor who fall victim to violence, poverty, sicknesses, oppression, and helplessness. In addition, Saint Luke’s is committed to providing medical attention to those who are marginalized and vulnerable and would not otherwise have access to medical services.

The hospital’s management has been working tirelessly to cope with the increasing demands for health services, particularly intensive care and neonatal services.
In recent years, these hospital departments have not been able to provide services efficiently due to dilapidated structures and run-down equipment.

The hospital’s building is old and has been in great need of renovation and expansion, especially the intensive therapy units, which are some of the most critical departments of the hospital and include the ICU (intensive care unit), the neonatal and pediatrics department, and the pharmacy. The grant from UTO for $136,000 has allowed for the renovation of these departments and the purchase of equipment to create and update these needed departments.

The implementation of the project has helped the hospital to continue responding to the needs of the community by providing the full medical package with affordable prices and focusing on those who can’t afford the services elsewhere. 
We all thank UTO for partnering with us in this most needed and important work.

Building Up the Body with Gratitude: Reflections on UTO

by Sue Ann Backus, UTO Coordinator, Episcopal Diocese of Delaware

I was born into the Episcopal Church, as my maternal grandfather came to the US in his youth from England. Growing up at St. Matthew’s, Wheeling, WV, where my mother and her brother were raised, gave me that sense of history, of belonging to something so great that it reached back centuries.

As a child I was raised with the little Blue Box, a “mite box” as we called it back then. My sister and I would place our few coins in our box in thanksgiving for a Godly blessing. We didn’t have access to many coins in those days, but we were taught the Biblical lesson of the widow’s mite. There is no gift that is too small when offered to God in thanksgiving, as God has the power to magnify these small gifts to aid the poor and marginalized to make their lives more tolerable.

My husband, an Episcopal priest, and I moved to Laurel, Delaware in 2008 to be close to his parents who were in need of some health assistance. I retired after 30+ years of employment. My “charitable” endeavors were pretty much confined to moments related to raising my three sons and their activities.

After moving to Delaware where I didn’t know anybody except family, I decided that I needed to find something to fill my days, as doing nothing is just not my style. I attended a Diocese of Delaware ECW annual meeting and met many lovely women. The discussion about positions needing to be filled arose. Someone whispered in my ear asking me if I would consider becoming the UTO coordinator for the diocese. Hmm, I thought, why not. This would offer me an opportunity to get to know more people in this new land. As the UTO coordinator, I have had the opportunity and have gotten to know so many wonderful people.

The design of the UTO ministry of offering daily thanks to God for our blessings by placing coins in a box has a sacramental quality as defined by “an outward visible sign of an inward spiritual grace.” I have learned that our change really does change lives. Thanks be to God.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017 at 8 p.m. Eastern Time and Thursday, February 16, 2017 at 8 p.m. Eastern Time –
Webinar on the UTO grant process for those who are on screening committees. This is your chance to get questions answered about the applications you have received and whether any changes need to be made before submitting them. Join us on Zoom at 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.


2017 UTO Grant Materials now available!

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