The offering plate became obsolete years ago but most congregations have yet to notice. We still pass the plate and observe that fewer and fewer dollars go into it. I am still kicking myself for passing the plate this last Easter instead of announcing how to give online in the bulletin. What was I thinking?
The offertory is a moment of extreme embarrassment for many because they either didn’t bring cash, don’t have a checkbook or forgot to bring either because they were going out later and didn’t want to be bothered carrying cash “around.” They can pay for Sunday dinner or brunch with a credit card. Why can’t they give to God the same way?
Money is just old-fashioned. Some old-fashioned things are great; I think of buttermilk biscuits or writing thank-you notes. Other old-fashioned things are just not useful and keep us from meeting the goal of getting money to the church. That goal is not just utilitarian—it is also holy. It allows us to be the body of Christ, the hands and feet of God, the world-wide webbing of the Holy Spirit.
Check books and cash are old fashioned in a dysfunctional way. More and more people pay for everything online and don’t need a checkbook to do so. Why should church be the only place left for cash or checks? Doesn’t that sideline God to a certain demographic or to the 20th century where cash and checks were more than welcome in offering plates? Why do that?
Like shoulder pads or penny loafers, those long handled baskets or wooden plates with felt potholders at the center are a kind of interesting relic of a time when banking and money wore different clothes. We announce our last century belongings by only passing a plate. We say we are still back there rather than in here. There is nothing wrong with “back there” as long as we are also “here, now.”
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