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Feb 28, 2017

UTO Builds a Culture of Thankfulness

The United Thank Offering, instituted in 1889 by the Women's Auxiliary of the Board of Missions of The Domestic and Foreign Mission Society, raised $2,188.64. This first ingathering from across the Episcopal Church helped to build a church in Anvik, Alaska and sent a woman missionary to Japan.  The Episcopal Church Women of the Diocese of Texas, who gather the funds for a national ingathering, encourage all parishes to participate in the United Thank Offering in the spring and fall of each year.

The “United Offering” later became known as the United Thank Offering (UTO) to collect the prayers and grateful offerings of the women of The Episcopal Church in thanksgiving for the many blessings of this life. The mite boxes used to collect the offerings achieved iconic status as the symbol of these blessings and, in time, the United Thank Offering, through its Blue Boxes, became the single most important extra-budgetary source of funding for specific missionary projects in the Church. It has grown from these first gifts of just over $2,000 in 1889 to $107,207.83 annually by the turn of the 20th century.

The United Thank Offering provides an opportunity to contribute in a meaningful way to mission through daily prayers of thanks for all the good things that we have and can recognize in our lives. In giving thanks with a coin, not only do we offer a gift to someone else, but we honor the blessing by way of remembering. Giving in small ways teaches us to give in larger ways.

“The United Thank Offering (UTO) is different from our financial stewardship in our congregations,” said Bishop Jeff Fisher. “UTO is about living each day with thanksgiving. Whenever it crosses our mind to thank God for waking us up in the morning, or noticing Jesus in others or receiving an encouraging email from a treasured friend, then we give thanks, and we drop some coins or some bills in our blue boxes. After a few weeks, our filled boxes remind us that our lives are overflowing with blesssings and thanksgivings,” he said, adding, “Our Eucharistic prayer says ‘It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks.’”

UTO can be described as a “pay-it-forward” ministry–we help others, who in turn help others. It is practice that is particularly instrumental in teaching children about the Christian way of giving thanks and helping someone else.

The UTO is a ministry of The Episcopal Church for the mission of the whole church.  UTO is entrusted to promote thank offerings, to receive the offerings, and to distribute the monies in the form of grants to support mission and ministry throughout The Episcopal Church and Provinces of the Anglican Communion. Each penny is valuable and counted, which is why all grants are announced down to the cents.

Traditionally the money from the Blue Boxes is collected at the parish level two times each year, once in the spring on the Sunday closest to Ascension Day, and once in the fall, on the Sunday closest to All Saints Day.  In the Diocese of Texas, the funds are sent to the diocesan Episcopal Church Women Funds Coordinator, who forwards them to the national UTO headquarters for grants the following year. 

The UTO page on the Episcopal Church website grants given in recent past years, current year's grant focus and criteria, videos, grant application forms, information for ordering Blue Boxes and other supplies, as well as resources such as music lists and bulletin inserts help local congregations teach the practice of thankful giving.

The United Thank Offering Prayer

GRACIOUS GOD, source of all creation, all love, all true joy: accept, we pray, these outward signs of our profound and continuing thankfulness for all of life. Keep each of us ever thankful for all the blessings of joy and challenge that come our way. Bless those who will benefit from these gifts through the outreach of the United Thank Offering. This we ask through Him who is the greatest gift and blessing of all, Jesus Christ. Amen