In the beginning…
The establishment of the United Offering (now the United Thank Offering) at the General Convention of 1889 was the crucial step. There is a legend about the offering’s origin. At the Women’s Auxiliary meeting during the General Convention of 1886, about five hundred women were present for the worship service. And yet, when Mrs. Ida Soule, then serving as a delegate from Pittsburgh, helped to count the offering, she found the women had only given a total of eighty-seven dollars. Dismayed at the meager amount, she suggested to Julia Emery that perhaps if the women knew where their money was going, they might be inspired to contribute more generously. Emery agreed and urged her to write a letter suggesting that, just before the next Triennial Meeting, the offering be earmarked for a specific project. Emery would publish the letter in The Spirit of Missions and announce the designated recipient of that years’ offering.
In the early years the Women’s Auxiliary collected the money at the General Convention and their focus was on expanding the mission of the church. Grants supported training women in the church, supporting and sending women missionaries domestically and overseas and funding the building of schools, hospitals and church buildings all over the USA.
The United Offering became the United Thank Offering in the year 1919. That triennium the offering totaled $1,371,537.
In the 1943 triennium the UTO offering surpassed the one million mark for the first time and in 1949 it had increased to almost 2 million.
In 1952 Bishop Gordon of Alaska was awarded UTO money for an airplane in order to reach the parishes. He coined the phrase “Blue Box”, and named the plane in its honor.
In 1970 the Executive Council gave permission to the General Division of Women’s Work to allocate the offering on an annual basis. At the 1970 triennial meeting an independent National United Thank Offering Committee was established. Its responsibilities were to promote, interpret, and allocate the offerings annually.
The new UTO committee, with 9 elected Provincial members, two members from the former Committee for Women, 1 from the Executive Council and 1 from the Lay Ministry Committee (both men), processed and allocated the 1971 and 1972 Offerings and prepared the Proposed Grant List for the 1973 triennial meeting to consider.
UTO celebrated their Centennial Anniversary and funds available for granting topped three million for the first time. UTO began this new millennium by granting over $3 million.