I grew up in the Presbyterian church in a small Ohio town. I remember we had a two-section offering envelope. One side was for general operation and the other side for missions. My mother faithfully gave to both and sometimes I got to put the envelope in the offering plate.
But that is as close as I got to participate in mission to others.
Later I joined a suburban UCC church where awareness of mission was more evident. Here, at least, we had an occasional speaker or program about how the church helped others around the world.
Then 11 years ago I joined a large, downtown UCC congregation where I became very active. I sang in the choir, served on the board of trustees, and soon found myself chairing the annual Christmas dinner.
My close friends will tell you that I like organization, I don't adapt too well to change and I appreciate efficiency.
That being the case, I decided that the church would sell tickets to the Christmas dinner that year. That way the committee would be able to plan more accurately for purchase of supplies and set-up.
We also could make sure that all the people who came to eat would have ample room at their table.
So the big day came and all was going very well. People presented their tickets at the door and took their seats at the tables.
Then three homeless people walked in. This wasn't in my plan. This was a ticketed event. At least, I thought it was. I hadn't planned on three homeless people walking in without tickets.
Fortunately a friend much more enlightened than I said, "Becky, go get three more plates. These people are hungry." While I did that, she made room for them at one of the tables.
From that day forth my focus and effort changed. Mission is not about me. Mission is not about you. Mission is about the people who don't have tickets.
My church congregation is seriously devoted to a variety of social justice issues and peace activities.
We realize that some people will never be able to afford a ticket and we must step in to do what we can, whenever we can, as long as we can.
And yes, we will have a Christmas dinner this year. But no, we won't sell tickets.
Rebecca Dolder is a member of Pilgrim Congregational UCC in Cleveland. Focus on Faith is a reader-written column to help others grow in their faith. We welcome columns from laity and clergy.