Many moons ago, I published words to the effect that even hinting to a visitor in a church that s/he should contribute to that church’s bill-paying fund is inhospitable. I find abhorrent the slightest glance in the direction of someone you don’t know, as you’re passing the collection plate. (Find this earlier post here.) No, let a person in a pew make the first move toward dropping money in the plate. No usher or table servant should be in the position of demanding money.
I’d like to add to these thoughts the idea that even those within a church–even the regular members–should not be guilted into contributing. I “contributed” toward this kind of guilt inducement last Sunday myself, and I repent.
In the Church of Christ, we have this odd legacy that leaves us with three parts of communion: the bread, the juice, and the collection. Many churches have been accustomed to making a point of separating the first two from the last through the use of the words “separate and apart,” but it really hasn’t been separate at all. Some of this, I imagine, developed out of convenience: those men serving the elements of communion were already up out of their pews and in their service mode, so why not just use them, right then and there, to pass the collection trays? It’s efficient, and I get this. But the feigning of separation–the silly declaration that it was separate when the reality was that it wasn’t separate at all–has not served our assemblies or our minds and hearts well.
On rare occasion, when I have been in charge of such things, I have made a point of switching up the order and having the collection first (understand that it would have been my first choice not to have it at all, and I’ve often inadvertently almost left it out, but it would have been too radical to do this intentionally!). This change in pattern has never lasted; the linking of communion and collection in the practices of the Church of Christ now appears fixed.
Tomorrow: guilt-inducing thoughts in song texts, and my vow