United Thank Offering (UTO)
If you would like more information on the diocesan UTO program, need ‘Blue Boxes’, or would consider holding an Ingathering for your parish, please contact our local coordinator, the Rev. Deacon Dr. Bruce Richards
About United Thank Offering: United Thank Offering is a ministry of the Episcopal Church Women that provides a way for women, children and men of the Episcopal Church to give daily thanks to God. The discipline starts in the homes by dropping coins into a special container, known as the Blue “Mite” Box. Some Episcopalians fill a blue envelope, but toward the same purpose and with the same sense of gratitude. These monetary gifts are used to help others.
The act of putting coins into the Blue Box is sacramental in nature. This action is an outward visible action that represents an inward spiritual grace of giving thanks to God for so many wonderful blessings. I find myself overwhelmed each day with the things that touch my heart. I am in awe of the waterfowl in this area, the red foxes that I occasionally see running from cornfield to cornfield, the beautiful birds that come and feed at my yard feeders, bright sunshine, watching crops grow and even a smile on a stranger’s face in response to my hello, how are you, and the road side stands of ever fresh produce that is grown locally that makes me feel so healthy. The list can go on forever and if we would give homage to these things that lift our spirits by placing a coin in our Blue Boxes, even in these difficult times, God’s work for those in need has magnanimous, generous and benevolent possibilities. Yes, pennies are encouraged, no donation is too small, but it is the act of taking time to thank God for our many daily blessings that is most important. It is our time to dream and to carry on the message of thanksgiving and self-giving with grateful hearts.
God calls each of us to grow in awareness of him, our own relationship with God, and our relationship in community with all whom God has created. As habits of daily thankful prayer mature, our personal relationship with God grows. Daily prayers of thanksgiving strengthen our being and doing. The blue box can be a reminder of our many blessings. Uniting our own gifts of thanks with those of others keeps us in thankful relationship with them and with all of creation. In sharing our thank offerings with those throughout the Communion who seek to address compelling human need and extend the mission of the Church, we deepen our sense of participation in the lives of others.
A Brief History of UTO: The history of UTO reflects the role and place of women in the governance and outreach of The Episcopal Church during the 19th and 20th centuries. This history reveals that women were a prime source of missionary support and funding that undergirded the general church budget while at the same time women were consistently excluded from positions of authority and decision-making in the broader church, including serving on the Board of the Missionary Society or any of its committees. In fact, women were not seated as deputies to General Convention until 1970.
The General Convention of 1871 thus created the Woman’s Auxiliary to the board of Missions of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (DFMS) bringing together many of the parish and diocesan women’s auxiliaries. Mary Abbot Emery served as the first National Secretary from 1872-76. She asked every rector of the Episcopal Church to appoint a secretary who would correspond with the National Secretary about the work of the women in each parish, perhaps creating the first centralized data base. During Emery’s short tenure over 350 local secretaries were appointed, and diocesan groups formed in nine dioceses. Julia Chester Emery then succeeded her older sister Mary as the National Secretary. Eventually two other sisters, Susan Lavinia Emery and Margaret Theresa Emery, joined Mary and Julia as staff of the Auxiliary. No other family contributed more to the Women’s Auxiliary and the missionary work of the Episcopal Church than the Emerys. Mrs. Ida Soule for whom the trust fund for pensions for women workers is named, worked behind the scenes for many years to make sure that the offering increased and did not flounder.
At the 1889 Triennial Meeting in New York, the Women’s Auxiliary instituted the United Offering for the support of specific mission projects and individual missionaries with the first United Offering totaling $2,188.64. The United Offering eventually became known as the United Thank Offering (UTO) collecting the prayers grateful offerings of the women of the Episcopal Church in thanksgiving for the many blessings of this life. Blue mite boxes, known affectionately as “The Blue Box” that collected the thanksgiving offerings of the women of the Episcopal Church would eventually achieve almost iconic status as the symbol of the UTO. (unitedthankoffering.org)