Litany for a celebration of a bequest

In 2007, St. Andrew’s (Haney) United Church received a bequest from the estate of a long-time member of the congregation. This was the first bequest received by the congregation. As the Trustees worked on the best stewardship of this gift , I was asked to create some kind of ‘liturgical celebration of the gift’, to be part of our Sunday morning worship.

This is what came together.

St. Andrew’s (Haney) is used to a weekly “Minute for Mission” or “Minute for St. Andrew’s”, in the response section of the liturgy, just prior to sharing in the offerings.

It made sense that the ‘celebration of the gift’ would go there.

A photograph of the person who made the gift was posted to the screen, along with her name and years of her life, followed by an ellipsis. (eg. Richard Bott 1968-2069-…)

I apologized to the guests who were present that morning, saying, “I hope you don’t mind if we take a few minutes to remember a person in the congregation who shared quite a bit of her life with us.”

Part of this individual’s joy was making people laugh, by wearing the strangest of hats… so I threw on my M&S “Cat in the Hat” hat.

Because she was well known to the congregation, I asked if they would share some of the things they remembered about her life. We took about 10 minutes, with stories about her love and connection being shared. (If she had not been as well known to the congregation, I would have asked someone who knew her to prepare and share a short ‘bio’, including the individual’s connections with the congregation.)

Then the convenor of the Trustees rose to explain that, in her will, the individual we were remembering had decided to give a gift of $X to the congregation, believing that it would help us to continue to live out our mission “to worship God, educate and serve in Christ’s name.”

After a moment of (somewhat stunned) silence, we entered into a prayer of thanksgiving, which included a congregational response.

One: For the gift of X’s life…
All: We thank you, God!
One: For the gift of your love through X’s life…
All: We thank you, God!
One: For the (here I picked out some of the things I had heard in the storytelling)
– hats
– jokes
– hugs
– smiles
– wisdom
– …
s/he shared with us…
All: We thank you, God!
One: For this gift, that will help us to continue
the ministries to which you Call us…
the ministries in which X shared,
the ministries in which she continues to live…
All: We thank you, God!
One: We ask you to help us to be wise in our use of this gift,
just as we ask you to help us to be wise
with all the gifts you have given.
All: In your love,
in Christ’s name,
in the communion of the Holy Spirit,
we pray… amen.

We then joined in singing “I, the Lord of sea and sky” (VU#509) (Lyrics & Music: Daniel Schutte, ©1981 Daniel Schutte & New Dawn Music)

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1 Comment

  1. Richard,
    This post was very helpful and I wonder if I could have your permission to use it in a short resource I am developing on just this topic for our Financial Development Officers and for the new Philanthropy Unit Stewardship Toolkit – ?
    With thanks,
    Susan Graham Walker,
    Manager, Congregational Giving and Stewardship

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