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United Methodist online giving tops $1 million for aid effort

 


United Methodist online giving tops $1 million for aid effort

Jan. 5, 2005

By Kathy L. Gilbert*

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The United Methodist Church has surpassed $1 million in online gifts in response to the Dec. 26 tsunami in the Indian Ocean, Bishop Peter D. Weaver, president of the denomination’s Council of Bishops, announced Jan. 4.

"There is no question United Methodist people are very generous people--that is not just about money, it is about prayers, heart, caring and love," Weaver said. "Our United Methodists, as part of the larger human family, have again demonstrated love for neighbor as well as love of God with their response to the tsunami earthquake disaster."

People have identified with the need and are looking for ways to respond, agreed the Rev. Larry Hollon, top executive with United Methodist Communications, the denomination’s communication agency. "The significance (of raising $1 million) is more than the amount of money; it is the fact that the church was available to people to receive their donations and to act in their behalf. That is a very significant role for us to play."

Weaver said every dollar given to the church’s relief agency, the United Methodist Committee on Relief, goes directly to aid for the affected region. For more than 60 years, UMCOR has worked in partnership with a number of agencies in nearly 100 countries during humanitarian crises.

An online site, www.methodistrelief.org, was activated Dec. 27 and immediately generated hundreds of responses. The responses grew as the death toll rose toward 150,000 and the world learned that millions were homeless around the Indian Ocean.

Weaver, who is bishop of the church’s Boston Area, said the denomination’s full-page advertisement in USA Today has also generated responses for the relief drive. The advertisement, which appeared Jan. 3 in the United States and Jan. 4, in USA Today’s international edition, said, "Hands folded in prayer are already at work."

The Internet has changed giving, Hollon said. The traditional way of giving in churches on Sunday morning will continue, but people are looking for ways to respond immediately, he said.

"The church must be present, must be on screen and available."

The failure to get the message out quickly becomes a message that nothing is being done, Hollon said. "It is as easy to click the mouse and go somewhere else, as it is to use the Web site of the church."

"While there are clearly cultural and geographical distances here, there is closeness to the human heart — to the human heart of a sister or brother who is experiencing pain," Weaver said. "Every human being can begin to translate that into his or her own experience to some extent."

Online giving is only a part of the response from the United Methodist Church, Weaver said. Congregations across the church — in the United States, Africa, Europe and Asia — are collecting funds and mobilizing to help in any way that they can.

"We are asking simply that people give to help those who have lost so much," he said. "Persons can give to their charity of choice, or through their local church, synagogue, mosque or temple."

Besides giving online, donations to UMCOR's "South Asia Emergency" relief work can be placed in local church offering plates or sent directly to UMCOR, 475 Riverside Drive, Room 330, New York, NY 10115. Designate checks for UMCOR Advance #274305 and "South Asia Emergency." Credit-card donations can be made by calling (800) 554-8583.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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