MOUNTAIN IRON FAITH: The Penny Processional
- Author: Jerry Hoffman
- Updated: 06/24/2008
- Copyright: Jerry Hoffman
In 1998, Messiah's bell tower was hit by lighting and its building burned to the ground. From the devastation came an incredible renewal of spirit, vitality and service. With help from their insurance company, others in the community and from the generosity of its own members, they built a beautiful, serviceable new facility in a new location. When Pastor Kristin Foster reflects on what occurred, she smiles and calls it, "A Miracle!"
In their new building, they are continuing to expand their mission of grace, mercy and service in their own immediate community and far beyond.
In the spring of 2005, they envisioned ridding themselves of their debt as soon as possible in order to devote even more of their resources in mission and outreach to the community and the globe.
I had the opportunity to be with the congregation on Commitment Sunday, May 22, when the penny processional occurred. I love to tell this story.
Messiah Lutheran in Mountain Iron, MN invited the children of the congregation to give the "Lead" gifts in an effort to pay off its $160,000 mortgage.
To accomplish their goal, the children were invited to collect 160,000 pennies. A campaign sticker (Catch the Vision! Claim the Promise!) was placed on each quart jar (each could hold approximately 1,000 pennies) and distributed to the children.
The children began collecting the Sunday the campaign was launched. One of the places pennies were collected was during the weekly offering. Children circulated haphazardly through the congregation with butterfly nets inviting everyone to put in pennies. (In subsequent Sundays, people learned not to put all their pennies in at once, because another child came holding the net in front of them waiting for a response.)
The time of the offering became a special event filled with laughter, children and full participation.
Each week more and more jars were filled.
On commitment Sunday (which was six weeks after the launching date), a large copper bowl was placed in front of the altar. During the reception of the offering, the children and youth (with adult assistance) made their final rounds with butterfly nets and then begin to carry the jars full of pennies down the aisle in procession.
Everyone knew the jars were for pouring and not for storing. Jar after jar was poured out and soon the the bowl was overflowing with pennies. There was laughter and joy. As the pennies spilled on the floor, kids tried picking up the pennies and getting them back into the bowl. Even Pastor Foster could be seen on her hands and knees before the altar. When all the pennies were given, Pastor Foster used her most gentle yet persuasive encouragement to have the children return to their seats so the service could continue. They experienced the joy of giving 116,316 pennies onto the Lord, and their joy overflowed.
Later in the service, the whole congregation came forward and placed their pledges on top of the pennies given by the children. From that service alone, $128,296 was pledged.
The contributions of the children served as the lead gifts upon which the whole congregation built its response. Everyone was able to contribute.
The following day, children and youth returned to the church to join in a penny processional to a nearby bank for the pennies to be counted and deposited. What joy it was to astound a bank with a deposit of 116,316 pennies.
They are going to be talking about this event for a long time!
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