And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. (42) And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. (43) And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: (44) For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living. (Mark 12:41-44)
Our parish has several important local traditions. The most important ones are that we serve a moleben every Monday, and pray aloud for everyone in the parish, and many more besides. We repeat these petitions in the regular Thursday liturgy we serve. These are critical to our spiritual well-being, but of course, not everyone participates. It is hard to get everyone to participate in parish liturgical life, but we have a "liturgical tradition" that everyone does participate in, including the children!
It is a powerful force in our parish, and is probably the most forceful way we are obeying the command: "Train up a child in the way he should go", regarding one of the pillars of Christian piety, alms-giving.
We have a collection EVERY Sunday for various causes. We have given to almost a hundred people/places/things in the past 3 years, and have disbursed over $20.000 (see the bottom of this essay). It is not considered to be part of our tithe or pledge to the church. It is a totally free-will offering, given when we venerate the cross at the end of Sunday liturgy. We call it "MITEY MITES".
It is very "Mitey". The money collected is usually not a large amount (usually near a hundred dollars, sometimes much more, sometimes less). All the children bring up their folded and mutilated bills (they can be very creative) and coins and are very excited to plop them noisily into the bowl. We announce what we are collecting for. The causes are varied, but one goal is always the same - to teach our children (and ourselves) to give alms with an open hand.
We have a posted in the church hall that shows the causes we gave to last year. a few bills and coins really add up. People are aware of orphanages in India, Monasteries in Mexico, areas in need of relief from natural disasters, and many more worthy causes. We post all letters we receive, and sometimes keep up with the various people and places we have given too.
The world is a big place, and we are small. "Mitey Mites" makes us more aware of the world around us.
The Mitey Mites collection idea originated at a parish council meeting a couple of years ago when ways of encouraging almsgiving were being discussed. Someone on the council suggested that people were usually more eager to give when asked to contribute to a specific need and could see where there money was going to be used to help others. We were inspired by the example of frequent collections for causes in St. John's in DC and St. Jonah's in Spring. As the discussion continued, the idea came up of asking for parishioners to save their pocket change throughout the week to contribute to a weekly collection for specific needs and missions. This pocket change, though small, could, like "the widows mite" end up doing mighty things --- thus the name, Mitey Mites.
People give when they see that their giving makes a difference. People may not feel they can afford to give much more than their normal tithes and offerings to the church -- but pocket change that might otherwise just collect up in a purse, pocket, dish or sofa seat at home, can be added to the contributions of others to do great things. Dropping coins in a bowl, together, for a common cause can produce more of a sense of community and of personal sharing than simply writing check and putting it in a donation box.
It was really easy to do this. The children are our greatest ambassadors. They all want to be involved. It is just too cute to see a two year old excited to drop some coins into the bowl. It is so cute it is probably breaking the law! I have never noticed any resistance to the practice, but on the contrary, people love it!
After we started the practice weekly it just took off. the money added up, and we received suggestions for those to give benevolence to. We decided to create a poster. It is a little schmaltzy, but that is because this practice is fun. A talented parishioner executed a whimsical drawing. The poor server being "attacked" in the picture is a real person, but he is not really alarmed in real life. The drawing is meant to evoke the image of "Mighty Mouse" flying to the rescue - our little "mouses" are flying in with their coins and bills.
I would recommend that every parish would institute this practice, but please find another name!
(This essay was created with the contributions of several members of the parish)
Here is a list in alphabetical order of all the people/places/things we have given to in the past 3 years. We have disbursed over $20,000 (from couch cushions!) Many names are changed. Many of these items were given to more than once.
Priest Seraphim Holland 2014 St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas
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