Wahiawa United Methodist Church
Two weeks ago I went to Hawaii. Well, not really. I went to church in Hawaii. This too is untrue. In reality, I merely Zoomed a church service that was being held in Hawaii. Since I was not able to physically be in Hawaii, let me state the obvious: life is unfair.
I stumbled onto the service because I was invited by a friend from Seattle who asked me to support a former student of hers who was sharing his testimony. The Wahiawa United Methodist Church is discerning whether or not to become a Reconciling Congregation. They invited my friend’s friend, Danicole – an out LGBTQ person – to give a sermon about his faith journey.
I had already attended my own church’s on-line worship service that morning and, thinking two services in one day was a bit much, I decided to take a “walk and listen” approach to Wahiawa UMC’s service. It worked. I enjoyed the variety of music and Danicole’s message was moving.
But what really got to me was something totally unexpected.
Wahiawa UMC made the offering time a spiritual experience. I was listening while Pastor Kawamura talked about the offering. Then, all of a sudden what familiar tune should I hear?
Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Praise God all creatures here below.
Praise God above ye heavenly host.
Praise Creator, Son and Holy Ghost.
It was the good old-fashioned Doxology.
As I continued walking, I had a visceral reaction. I hadn’t heard the Doxology in well over, well, I don’t know how long. There was something oddly comforting about singing it (granted, I was in public, so I mumbled).
Even pre-COVID, my particular contemporary worship service didn’t use the Doxology. So, my muscle memory hearkened back to church services of days gone by. I had sung that song so many times as a kid that I knew it the second I heard the first three notes. It was a powerful sensation.
Pastor Kawamura then, as if the offering plates were in front of her and overflowing, prayed a prayer over the virtual offering. A few minutes later, my trip to the UMC church on the Big Island was over.
But the memory of the Doxology has stayed with me.
If you’re still doing on-line worship, what are you doing to make the offering a spiritual experience?
It doesn’t take much to transform what might now feel like a transactional experience - “Please remember to give.” – and make it a reminder that giving is an act of worship.
It may be time to get your congregation to use its muscle memory around the offering. Sing the Doxology and pray a prayer of gratitude. Make the offering spiritual. And guess what? Though it definitely wouldn’t be a bad thing…you don’t even need to go to Hawaii to make it happen.