Ok, we didn't completely kill off the offertory at Pilgrims.....
But we've switched it up.....
We've do lots of innovative things in worship at Pilgrims. For some reason, for the last 15 years (my tenure at Pilgrims) we have left the moment of the offertory alone. Picture it:
- compost on the floor as a communion table
- prayer stations throughout the sanctuary
- stations for young children throughout the sanctuary
- walking meditations
- people writing cinquains
- sparklers and bubble machines have made appearances.
Then comes our offertory. For the past 15 years, we've had 4 ushers collect the financial offertory. The ushers move two-by-two at the designated time with an exactness that mimics no other moment in our improv, participatory based liturgy. Brass plates are used and a minimal amount of money goes into the plates since most folks give via mailed-in checks or on-line. After plates have been passed with minimal eye contact and talking, the ushers come forward during the doxology to eventually place the plates on two, small, almost-out-of-site tables that are at the farthest point away from those worshiping. Our liturgical methodology of image-driven, connectional, experiential, and participatory sits outside our offertory experience.
But it's a new day! Here's the inspiration to die to the old, rise to the new.
- We are focusing on Stewardship this fall as we start-up a Capital Campaign to renovate our building. We can't blow-up the building so we are going to renovate it to bring it into the 21st Century.
- I went to the Ohio State vs. Navy football game a few weeks ago. I was taken by the ritual the "beer guy" calling out "beer here!" and someone in the middle of the aisle giving a nod to signal, "I want one." Beer Thirsty Person then passes down the aisle a $10 bill which gets passed down to Beer Guy via hands of 10 strangers. Beer guy sends back beer + change with said strangers passing back the beer and change to Thirsty Person. How cool is that! Considering our *ucked up banking system, I was really taken by this human exchange. It involves trust, human touch, and strangerhood. The human initiative during this ritual was something I wanted to hang-on to for a new way of sharing the offertory.
So....this is what we've come up with after our worship planning creativity session in August:
We are using sub-themes of Stewardship each Sunday: Earth-honoring, relationships, family, jobs.....stewardship is the sharing of life in the Kingdom of death (that's our theme). Stewardship hits everything. (Note: I'm also over this Stewardship word. It's so loaded. Let me know if you use something else.)
When folks walk into the sanctuary, our font is imaged in a way to give a hint of sub-theme. Example: Earth-care/honoring was last week and I dumped a large amount of lobster compost into the font. I put in faux tea lights. A glass vase was in the middle of the compost and held our new stewardship cards. These cards list off ways to engage in Pilgrim life and have open-ended sentences like "I will honor the Earth this week by......." People grab one of these cards as they come in. It's important to me that they pick up a card themselves--it isn't given to them. They have agency in that moment to take the first step to expand the experience of stewardship and the offertory.
Visually, the communion table mimics the font. On Earth-care Sunday, I put more compost on the table and made a well in the middle. This was our bowl where folks eventually placed their cards. Each week the table will be the "container" for the stewardship cards.
After our announcements, one of us comes to the table and sets the context. We are expanding our offertory time in honor of our theme of Stewardship. Our hope in this season is for folks to meet their edge, stretch, challenge themselves with sharing life. Then we have someone come forward and share a 3 minute, personal story that connects to the theme of the day. This person has been already asked, given reflection guide and instructions for how to write and share the story. We've been doing this type of storytelling in worship for years, usually in the beginning of worship. Again, switching it up.
After story has been shared, Storyteller prompts people to get their card and ponder how they want to share life this week. The card changes each week, too. Sharing money is an option on the card.
Meditation bell is rung. People ponder. Choir sings.
Then folks are prompted to come forward with card and any financial offering while singing a song that was taught in the beginning of worship. They place cards and money in the bowl. It's also important to me that these cards and money are co-mingled together. We gather around the communion table and people are invited to call out what they put down on their cards.
Then we move into prayers of the people. Sing another song. Do benediction. Head off into the world.
Die to the old, folks. Rise to the new!