United Thank Offering

Why UTO??

March 2, 2021
United Thank Offering

By Sherri Dietrich, UTO Board President

I was reading UTO brochures a few weeks ago with an eye to revising them and was struck by a serious omission – they all assume that the reader already knows what UTO is, why it’s such a vital ministry, and why the reader should choose to participate. The Episcopal Church has so many ministries doing valuable work, why should anyone choose to participate in UTO rather than another ministry?

1. What is UTO?
The United Thank Offering is a ministry of The Episcopal Church that encourages the personal spiritual practice of gratitude in support of the mission of the whole Church. UTO encourages people to notice the good things that happen each day, give thanks to God for those blessings, make an offering for each blessing using a UTO Blue Box, and blessothers when those offerings are distributed in UTO Grants. UTO is entrusted to receive the offerings and to distribute 100% of what is collected to support innovative mission and ministry throughout The Episcopal Church and provinces of the Anglican Communion.

Since its official founding in 1889, UTO has awarded 5,357 grants for a total of $140,625,355.77, which has supported missionaries, built and renovated church buildings, and developed innovative ministries around the world. Last year when the COVID-19 pandemic began, UTO quickly changed its previously planned grant focus to give the Ingathering to COVID relief efforts; halfway through 2020, UTO gave $450,000 in grants supporting 30 projects, and we’re about to begin reviewing applications for another round of grants that will be dispersed in June 2021. We are very proud of the work UTO has supported through its grants over the years, and we want to continue that, but gratitude really is the focus of our mission.

2. Why should I participate?
How many times each Sunday do we say, “Thanks be to God”? How many times does the Bible tell us to be thankful, in all circumstances? God’s gifts of – well, everything – call for us to respond with gratitude, and God clearly expects that response. Why? Gratitude acknowledges an intimate connection between giver and recipient, a recognition that we’ve been given something, not because we deserve it, but because of the generosity of the giver. It’s not a transactional, obligation-creating relationship between giver and recipient. Instead, it is bound up with joy in both giver and receiver.

There are great practical benefits of having a grateful perspective, both to the grateful individual and to those who come into contact with that grateful heart. Though theology has been slow to study gratitude, science has not. Over the past decade, scientific research has linked a grateful outlook to better health, greater happiness, stronger relationships, more resilience in the face of grief and anxiety, and even longer life. We all know that perspective determines our view; when we face the world from a perspective of gratitude, our view includes more and more to be grateful for. Choosing to be grateful is basically choosing to be happy and filled with a sense of abundance, rather than a constant nagging desire for more and better of everything.

Gratitude is not about how much we have; it is about being aware of all we do have and paying less attention to what we don’t have. Like any other spiritual discipline, gratitude takes practice. At the beginning, it requires a conscious choice each time we’re tempted to be grumpy and grudging, but eventually it becomes a normal response and just part of the way to see the world. Gratitude actually changes the wiring of our brain over time so that we become more grateful, more socially oriented, and healthier.

Because that gratitude spills over onto everything in our life, we don’t have to choose participation in UTO VERSUS other ministries but can choose UTO AND other ministries. It doesn’t take big chunks of time or money to be grateful and put coins into a Blue Box, but it does make us more aware of our blessings and the needs of other people, needs that we can help meet through participation in the appropriate ministry. And because gratitude makes people more generous, participating in UTO helps to fulfill the mission of the whole Church by inspiring more generous participation in the Church’s work. Practicing gratitude with UTO is a foundation on which to build the rest of our life and work, a foundation that will support our personal life as well as our life in the Church and that will grow stronger over the years. Join us in creating a more grateful world and changing lives – starting with our own.

The Rev. Cn.
Heather Melton

Staff Officer for the United Thank Offering

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