100 Years of World Thank Offerings
Read Psalms 116:12
Reflection on Giving: What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits towards me? Writer and psychoanalyst Eric Fromm has some helpful thoughts on giving:
"The most widespread misunderstanding is that which assumes that giving is "giving up" something, being deprived of, sacrificing...People whose main orientation is the non-productive one feel giving as an impoverishment...For the productive character, giving has an entirely different meaning. Giving is the highest expression of potency. In the very act of giving...I experience myself as overflowing, spending, alive, hence as joyous. Giving, not because it is a deprecation, but because in the act of giving lies the expression of my aliveness." 1
Sing hymn No. 49: "Now Thank We All Our God"
Thoughts on Mission and Thank Offering:
The World Thank Offering is and has been for many decades an opportunity for personal Thanksgiving and learning of mission outreach.
Through the years, mission has been the main focus of the members of United Methodist Women and its predecessor organizations. Being in mission is sharing our lives and gifts with others that all may be whole persons through Jesus Christ. Mission is creating new persons and a new society as we do away with those things that create barriers or cause separation. It is working to eliminate racism, and sexism, and loneliness. Mission is Christ’s challenge to us to bring the possibility for food, shelter and fulfillment to all of humanity.
Through Thank Offering contributions mission projects are supported in all 50 states and in almost 100 countries. These projects vary from support to schools, hospitals and clinics, day care centers and homes for senior citizens to educational training courses to prevent soil erosion, leadership development, sewing and nutritional courses, and medical training. The number of persons reached by this type of caring and sharing is almost incalculable.
The first Thank Offering was observed in Lansing, MI, due to the inspiration of Mrs. H. E. Taylor 125 years ago. In 1881 Mrs. Taylor recorded this account:
"The World Thank Offering was not thought out; it was given. It was purely providential. When I was weaker than you even thought of, by some freak I was elected District President. In my extremity I called upon the Lord, and he helped me and blessed me in my work. Do you remember the lessons of 1881? The subject was free giving and it made such a strong impression on my mind - building the Tabernacle, then the peace offering, then God’s plan of building the kingdom by free will offering.
"Soon after this we had one of our very best District meetings where a wonderful sense of Divine power was felt. At this meeting I was surprised by being made a Life Member. You know the real blessedness of a meeting is when you get home and live it all over again. I did not think that I had any special desire to become a Life Member, but when I was home and thought that by the kindness of others, $20 in my name was sent to bless the world with Gospel light, my heart was all broken up and I cried aloud, ‘What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits?’ A voice said, ‘You can make a Thank Offering.’
I had just sold dried apples and had a $5 gold piece. At once I thought of the money and said, ‘Yes, Lord! I can and I will.’
"I left my work - not the poetic kind, but the washtub-and told my husband that the Lord had given me a wonderful thought, and I was going to write Mrs. Lathrop, our district Corresponding Secretary and tell her about ‘Thank Offering.’ Step by step our women were guided to make a Thank Offering." 2
At first each woman was asked to give two cents a week. Last year the amount given through Thank Offering was around one million dollars. This beautiful story of "Thanksgiving" shows what can happen when one woman responds to the still small voice.
Offering Prayer: O God, most merciful and gracious, of whose bounty we have all received, accept this offering of thy people. Remember in thy love those who have brought it, and those for whom it is given, and so follow it with thy blessing that it may promote peace and goodwill among all people, and advance the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Sing Hymn No. 410: "We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations"
Fran Alguire of Downers Grove, IL, is a former director of the Women’s Division.
1 - From The Art of Loving. Copyright 1956 by Erich Fromm. Harper Colophon edition, Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc., New York.
2 - From minutes of Women’s Foreign Missionary Society, Northwestern Branch, 1936-1940 volume.