One Great Hour of Sharing celebrates 75 years: Churches prepare to take offering with mix of nostalgia and urgency

Since 1949, the season of Lent has been one in which churches across denominations, including the United Church of Christ, have practiced the spiritual discipline of giving by participating in the One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS) offering to help neighbors near and far.

For Rev. Andrew Wicks, associate pastor at First Church of Christ Congregational in Glastonbury, Connecticut, the OGHS offering has become part of the “fabric of our liturgical calendar.”

“We preach about it and teach it in church school. Our folks have come to expect that spring is OGHS season,” said Wicks.

As the ecumenical movement — which was first called “One Great Hour of Sharing” in 1950 — celebrates 75 years, many UCC congregations prepare to receive this year’s offering with the theme “It’s Time to Share the Light” on Sunday, March 10. The offering, though, can be collected throughout the year.

Susan Peter, a member of Rock Spring Congregational Church in Arlington, Virginia, cannot wait to do her part for OGHS. For years she has participated alongside congregants in giving to the offering, knowing that OGHS gifts help to fund the variety of grants available to congregations and organizations through the UCC’s Global H.O.P.E. team. These grants cover disaster relief and recovery, ministry support for refugees and immigrants, and volunteer engagement.

“I give to OGHS because it is important that our congregation stays aware of the needs beyond our own community,” said Peter. “It is a way to teach us about love, reminding us of what we have that we can share with others.”

Peter added that the offering is especially important to her this year as the needs of the world weigh heavily on her. “There is just so much on my heart right now,” she said.

Next generation of givers

In 2023, Rock Spring Congregational Church collected $11,267 for OGHS. First Church in Glastonbury is another top OGHS giving congregation. In 2023, gifts to the offering were a little over $20,000.

“Our membership takes pride in being one of the most generous congregations giving to OGHS year,” said Wicks. “We can rest assured that our annual giving to OGHS means that when disaster strikes around the world, our dollars are already hard at work responding to the crisis – and preparing for the next one. We remind our people of this all year long.”

According to the Rev. Kate VanDerzee-Glidden, senior pastor of First Church, this year’s OGHS offering will be collected on Palm and Passion Sunday, March 24. The congregation’s children will once again take an active role in collecting the offering.

“The children come in with their banks and we ‘fleece’ the congregation,” said VanDerzee-Glidden. “We ‘warn’ our people, so they come ready with bags of change and bills eager to fill the banks of our children.”

By taking the OGHS offering this way, the next generation of givers — the children — get to see first-hand what a generous congregation looks like and how by working together, a lot can be accomplished. This not only brings a smile to the pastor’s face, but it also brings back fond childhood memories.

“As a child, I remember collecting change in the OGHS coin boxes, and I absolutely love seeing our church kids doing the same. We want to help our children learn about people around the world and how they can assist — even in small ways,” said VanDerzee-Glidden, adding, “Our faith is one of action, justice, and compassion, and we love that our children are part of this special offering.”

In a video message, UCC Acting Associate General Minister the Rev. Shari Prestemon asserts that “One Great Hour of Sharing giving continues to share hope and love for so many, here and around the world.”

A living legacy

In 2022, Eastgate Congregational Church in Bellevue, Washington, was a top OGHS giving church, donating $28,700 toward the offering. But the impact of this generosity goes beyond the amount: the money given to OGHS was the last will and testament of a church that took its last breath.

According to then-member Lois Bauer, Eastgate Congregational — which was founded in 1956 — began declining over the years. Like many churches, the congregation began broaching the topic of how to die well. It wasn’t until the COVID years that it became clear that Eastgate’s time had run out. The congregation sold its building during that time.

It was then decided to take the proceeds from the sale and poll the remaining 18 members as to what organizations to give a portion of the money to. What happened next was a God moment Bauer will never forget.

“When I saw the list of suggested places to give the money, I was taken aback by the diversity of services,” she said. It was a list, she adds, that revealed the hearts of those who called Eastgate Congregational their home. Included were organizations that supported housing, food, and other basic needs as well as initiatives like the African American Reach and Teach Health Ministry and the American Indian College Fund.

After the list was compiled, the members voted as to how much to allocate to each. Since Eastgate had always been a “5 for 5” congregation — that is, participating in all five UCC special offerings — it was a given that one last donation be made to OGHS.

‘Beyond our local congregations’

While former Eastgate Congregational members have found church homes elsewhere, for Bauer, it is powerful to think of how the church’s legacy will live on through the money given to OGHS. Long-time Eastgate member, Carol Ready, agrees.

“A couple of reasons that I love OGHS is that it reaches out to people in need beyond our local congregations in a multitude of ways and that it’s an opportunity for several denominations to work together to serve others in Jesus’s name,” said Ready, who added wistfully, “And it’s probably the first outreach opportunity that I remember from my childhood in the ’50s. Besides the regular Sunday school offering, there were those little coin boxes we got during Lent for OGHS.”

Church members can give through their home congregations or through the One Great Hour of Sharing donation page.

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Categories: United Church of Christ News

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