Sometimes it can be the most uncomfortable time of the service, especially if you are sitting in the front row and that big open bowl comes past for your offering.
If you’re first, whatever you put in, the next person along is going to know how much it was. Maybe that’s why people like envelopes – at least that way only the recorder will know how much your contribution was.
It is always easier when a congregational hymn is sung during the offering rather than a quiet organ voluntary which might not hide the clinking of coins. I sometimes suspect that the point of the music is to not to draw attention to the offering but to distract us from it.
Stewards shuffle apologetically and try not to look at what others are putting in. Thank heavens for those enlightened congregations which use deep, soft bags to hide the amount and muffle the clinking of whatever might be deposited.
For those who sincerely wish to offer God a fair slice of the pay-packet there is the modern day rush to the handy teller each Sunday morning to make a quick cash withdrawal so the stewards can collect it, count it, record it and then deposit it back in the same bank.
Praise the Lord for direct giving through bank transfer. But then there is the possible embarrassment of having to pass the plate by because you already made your offering direct.
You could just put some more loose change in but then someone might notice and think you’re a tightwad.
Let’s face it, offering plates were first passed eons ago when people brought home their pay in cash in a little brown envelope and sat at the kitchen table dividing it up for rent, food, savings and regular payments.
Some went into another little brown envelope that the church supplied in annual bundles for the offering.
Back in those days it all made sense but, to those who live in 2007 and pay for every bill by credit card or bank transfer and only carry enough cash for a parking spot or cup of coffee, a plate for cash seems a pretty lame way to finance a church.
It’s like the story of the Abbot’s cat which would run around disturbing the evening devotions. The monks complained so the Abbot tied the cat in the corner of the hall during devotions so it would not cause a disturbance.
Several years later the abbot died, but the monks continued to tie the cat in the corner.
Eventually the monks changed and in time the cat died.
The new monks were not sure why there was a cat inside the hall during devotions but they bought a new cat anyway and continued to tie it in the corner.
While bringing an envelope of cash to place in the offering each Sunday may have been an appropriate, liturgical act of worship in a bygone age, in the day of plastic cards and a cashless economy it’s just a bit like tying a cat in the corner.