The service on November 11 began as it does every week at First Parish in Milton. However, when it came time for the offering, parishioners were in for a surprise. A pair of ushers circulated the room with collection plates, but this time the congregation was not asked to put money in. Instead, they were invited to take money out.
In this “reverse offering,” each person, children as well as adults, was invited to take an envelope from the plate. The envelopes contained between $10 and $50, and came with a simple set of instructions: "Use this gift for good. Share the fact that it came from your church. Return and tell the story."
In her sermon, Rev. Parisa Parsa spoke about generosity. She encouraged congregants to “take this gift today and use it freely. Let it remind you that all you have can be used just as freely if you dare to imagine that world you wish for, discover where your heart breaks at the distance we have to travel, and offer what you can where you can as you can to heal that rift.”
Members of First Parish gladly took up the charge to live generously. Many chose to make matching gifts with their own money, and they used the funds in a wide variety of ways. Several contributed to a Hurricane Sandy relief trip planned by the church youth group.
Some made donations to favorite charities, including An Orphan Smiles, Action Against Hunger and the Milton Food Pantry. Others chose more personal avenues of generosity: buying blankets for homeless people they see each day or helping fund a relative’s visit to his sick mother.
Meghan Mylod, age 7, shared her story: “I bought some Legos for the Children’s Hospital because when I went there for my appointment they gave me a toy. And because some people are very sick and I want to cheer them up.”
Every Sunday, after collecting the offering, First Parishioners recite words of dedication: “May these gifts be transformed into strength for this faith community, into comfort, food, and shelter for those in need, and may we be transformed by generosity.”
On November 11, those words took on a special significance.
All together, $2,500 was distributed. The cash came from the minister’s discretionary fund, money that is specifically set aside for people in need.
Said Parsa, “I’m just asking the congregation to share in this ministry with me.”
The above release was provided by Jamez Terry, First Parish.