Each year people across the country are invited to respond to the flurry of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday with a day centered on gratitude: Giving Tuesday. The day is filled with nonprofit organizations sharing their stories and encouraging those who are moved to support their work. But, in a time where economic abundance can feel out of reach for so many, how do we embrace generosity and make plans for our own giving?
Writer, teacher and preacher Erin Weber-Johnson proposes that this period in history has served as a reminder that we are a collective people who “don’t belong just to ourselves, but to one another.” For Presbyterians, the word “collective” evokes images of connectionalism, a central value to who we are as a church. In fact, the very ways in which we do church serve as examples of the collective, connectional means through which we belong to one another. We gather in sessions, presbytery meetings and the General Assembly to discern with one another where God is calling us. We explore what it means to answer God’s call in our ordination processes by embracing formative relationships together. We hold ourselves accountable in community, seeking reconciliation through judicial processes. We work beyond the boundaries of denominational identity to seek justice with our ecumenical partners and others in the world. Each of these acts reminds us that our belonging to God is tied up in our belonging to one another. These are also just some of the ministries that are lived out in the Office of the General Assembly.
The Office of the General Assembly does not just embrace connectionalism in the work that we do or the ways in which we do it, but also in the understanding of how we fund this work. Through the Book of Order, Presbyterians have set out a plan for sharing the costs of connectional ministries by gathering the whole of the church in unified support. This giving takes the form of per capita, through which each member of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) joins together in supporting ministries that extend from leadership development in their own congregations to the fostering of international relationships that share the word of God throughout the world. Through per capita, Presbyterians recognize that belonging to one another means that we share in a collective generosity so that we may, in turn, serve God together.
On Giving Tuesday, the church has been invited to reflect on how we can reframe our concept of generosity from what we can do for God on our own to what we can do for God together. As members and friends of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Giving Tuesday presents an opportunity to embrace what it means to be a connectional church through collective giving. But we also know that this is just one Tuesday, just one day of generosity among the many days God accompanies us through our lives. And so, while we enthusiastically join together for Giving Tuesday, let us take from this day a posture of collective generosity that can continue to empower us as a connectional church in the days to come.