United Thank Offering
2022 Annual Report
Growing Grateful Hearts
Since our founding in 1883, the United Thank Offering has consistently been evolving and adapting. Seeing that our granting mission is to fund innovative ministry, an ever-changing organization makes a lot of sense! And while UTO will continue to adapt and grow, gratitude will forever be at the heart of what we do. Our focus in 2022 was truly growing grateful hearts, ensuring that we can equip and empower everyone in practicing gratitude.
Thank you for joining us.
Sprinkled throughout this report are tangible, visual products that UTO produced in 2022, including this video series. We hope you enjoy!
Click on any of the titles to go immediately to that section.
A Letter fom the President
Sherri Dietrich, Diocese of Maine
It feels like change has been the only constant since the COVID pandemic arrived in 2019, and most of us are pretty tired of it. Although advertising seems to assume that we all want “new and improved” everything all the time, we enjoy the new most when we have a stable place from which to embrace it, when we think we can see that it’s leading us toward a better place, and when it feels like an actual improvement rather than change simply forced upon us because the old ways are falling apart. It’s often easier to see change as the decline and loss of current beloved ways than as the rise of the next manifestation of God’s work, but UTO is viewing it as another opportunity to “hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church” and to act on what we hear.
Over the past 3 years people let us know that they were looking for connection and community, so UTO has strengthened and reshaped its community of grateful people through hosting thousands of them online in webinars, book groups, worship events, and celebrations. Although in-person gatherings have some real benefits, we’ve learned that online gatherings are more inclusive, less reliant on people’s financial resources, inclusive of people around the world, and more financially and ecologically responsible. Virtual communities are real communities with genuine connections among their members.
UTO is also listening to what people want and need and understanding how our message of grateful living meets those needs. Anxiety is at epidemic levels, fear of the future and of others is rampant, and uncertainty in the face of constant change only adds to the fear. But gratitude can help counter all of those things, and UTO will continue to teach people how to reshape anxiety by noticing the gifts in their lives, turn fear into gratitude for the gifts of differences, and be open to the gift of possibilities and opportunities that change brings. Research shows that gratitude is a powerful tool for emotional, mental, and physical health, and the experiences of those who practice gratitude confirms that research.
UTO has given grants to innovative Episcopal Church projects for 140 years, and the changes of the past several years and into the foreseeable future reinforce the current need for innovation in the Church. UTO will continue to work to spread gratitude inside and outside of The Episcopal Church because gratitude is the stable foundation on which we can build our lives and faith and is a life-changing message to share with the world. We welcome you to join the UTO community and to share your gifts and offerings to help us strengthen The Episcopal Church and change the world through gratitude.
2022 In Review
Icon by Kristen Wheeler
Formation for Young Adults and Children
Six curriculum modules are ready for the young adult virtual community, which will go online as soon as the website is finalized. This work was presented at the recent Forma gathering for feedback and final revisions. These gratitude-based modules (such as Gratitude and Money, Gratitude and Ministry) can be completed by individuals or by groups of young adults and will help to connect young Episcopalians and seekers to God and each other. For younger children we released new Lenten materials in March, Illustrated Ministry coloring pages in August, and the Color Your Own Blue Box contest in December. We also sent out a prototype UTO subscription box of activities to a group of beta testers, so we could get feedback on what worked and what families want to teach their children about gratitude.
UTO History Brochure
The UTO History Brochure will be released in 2024 and serve as an important piece documenting the work of women in The Episcopal Church and the ways UTO has influenced the whole Church. The project was temporarily delayed as the writer suffered a broken wrist, but the project has resumed – ready for completion in 2023 and release on Julia Chester Emery’s feast day in 2024.
Strengthen and make new connections and coalitions with other groups in the Church
UTO partnered with Episcopal Women’s History Project, Partner’s Path, Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations, Daughters of the King, and more to offer a webinar on women in The Episcopal Church and partnered with Indigenous Ministries to present a webinar on gratitude and the experience of UTO grants for Indigenous sites, both of which were well-attended and well-received; strengthened our connection with clergy spouses by adding Laura Jackson, executive director of The Partner’s Path, to the UTO Board; and partnered with Episcopal Migration Ministries on offering welcome with gratitude and presenting the 2022 Great EpisGoPal Race.
In 2022, United Thank Offering grant process chose creation care: Turning love into action by caring for God’s creation to protect the most vulnerable — who will bear the largest burden of pollution and climate change — through justice, advocacy, environmental reparations or the development of formational materials. Climate change is a growing problem in our communities and we understand that the poorest of God’s children are and will be impacted the most. Of the 42 applications totaling over $1.8 million, The United Thank Offering was able to grant out $1,051,154.14 to 22 grant applicants.
This year, the grants will make progress in overturning the harmful effects of pollution and poor resource management. Recipients have had to be creative in their ministries as we are still facing the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and yet we all persevere. As always, The United Thank Offering received many more applications than we could fund. We both celebrate with those who received money and mourn with those who did not. We appreciate that each application represents the hopes and dreams of people around the world who are trying to change their community.
The Episcopal Church
$518,129.50 in 12 grants
Supported 8 projects totaling $286,088.00 which include the establishment of a Cherokee Heritage Garden in Alabama and helping rural congregations in draught-stricken areas of Montana to reduce their water usage.
Supported 4 grants to dioceses that receive block grants from the General Convention budget totaling $232,041.50 which include a water insecurity project in Ecuador Litoral and a horse therapy ministry in South Dakota.
The Anglican Communion
$370,625.90 in 8 grants
Supported 8 projects addressing issues such as erosion problems in the Diocese of Buye and a food insecurity program in South Africa. Creation care is of particular importance in the Anglican Communion as many of the countries do not have the funds to make necessary changes to help their people.
$145,538.74 in 2 grants
Supported 2 projects honoring the tradition of UTO. The Presiding Bishop’s grant was awarded to create church-wide social and spiritual formation for creation care. The Emery Trust grant was awarded to explore what post-pandemic missionary service will look like.
Growing Grateful Hearts
Icon by Chris Corbin
Gratitude at Home & in Your Parish
While many people saw 2022 as a chance to “return to normal”, we noticed that many people were not interested in going back to the way things were. Instead, people wanted to create a new normal, combining learnings from before the pandemic and during the pandemic. For my family there are a lot of things we adopted during the pandemic that were about safety that we’ve continued because it either saves us time or because we enjoy it. From pick up at stores to zoom classes, our lives look quite different from where we were before COVID. One of the core values of UTO is to be curious, wonder about the changes we are seeing around us, and find new ways to teach gratitude. While we didn’t come up with all the answers, we did create some really fun things to help promote gratitude that we’ll continue to work on in 2023. Our approach to formation materials has changed – no longer do our materials assume that someone already understands why practicing gratitude is important, but are often aimed at introducing the idea, theology, and practice. We also offered classes and trainings for those that wanted a deeper look at the spiritual discipline of gratitude. We created new free materials for formation leaders, to not only help teach gratitude at church but that could also be sent home. Since none of us know what the future may hold, here at UTO we will continue to try new ways of teaching gratitude through a variety of contexts, utilizing technology, and by working with partners, in the hopes of encouraging gratitude in our world. We also welcome your ideas, so if you wish we did something or taught something about gratitude, let us know.
- Collaboration with Illustrated Ministries to create a color your own Blue Box and coloring sheets on gratitude. With special thanks to the Rev. Rowan Larson for creating formation materials to accompany the coloring sheets for use at home or church.
- Annual materials for November/Thanksgiving and Lent continued this year with updates to both for increased flexibility and usage on social media.
- Beta Testing of a November Craft Box for families was sent out and feedback received, we hope to launch a gratitude mailer for purchase that can be used throughout November or as activities for kids on Thanksgiving.
- Webinars and classes we offered in 2022, from our Bible Study on Ruth with members of the RJCC team, to book clubs, training events, and a webinar with the Indigenous Ministries Office on gratitude, we found continuing to connect online allowed the greatest number of people to attend UTO events. While we look forward to offering an in person event in the future, we know the importance of low cost alternatives for participation.
- Increased formation for UTO leaders was key in 2022. After a very successful training event in June, we began offering quarterly gatherings for UTO leaders.
- Spanish language offerings in 2022 we mailed Spanish language materials to all those who requested them, in addition to offering trainings in Spanish as well as webinars on the grant process. We even launched a Spanish language website in 2022 to make resources more accessible.
Julia Chester Emery Icon Project
The centenary of Julia Chester Emery’s death in 2022 presented the opportunity to shine a spotlight on our founder. Her likeness is preserved in portrait and photographs, but surprisingly there was no icon of this saint of the Church whose feast day falls on January 9th! As a result, UTO asked iconographers from diverse artistic traditions to write four icons of Julia, which were then released throughout the year.
We know that Julia was kind, committed to promoting gratitude, and overcame societal standards of her time by her pioneering work and travels. Indeed, scripture undergirded her zeal for mission and common good. But, how to capture her personal essence in iconography since she rarely gave her viewpoint and never took credit for accomplishments?
Our four talented iconographers expressed Julia’s spirit in these ways:
Marcy Hall Art depicts her at the location of the first UTO grant site in Alaska, Blue Box in hand, and details her time spent as Secretary of the Woman’s Auxiliary.
Kristen Wheeler shows her passion and independence, traveling the globe alone twice as a fearless leader for women’s rights within the church through deaconess trainings.
The Rev. Dr. Chris Corbin’s simple line drawing emphasizes her humility and approachability as a leader for all people of all ages, featuring a UTO Blue Box.
The Rev. Paige Blair-Hubert used two photographs of Julia as the foundation of her traditional icon – as a young woman and one later in life.
First Annual Virtual Coordinator Training Days
Perhaps one of the most important things we learned through the pandemic is how to be flexible. UTO was one of the first to switch an in-person event to online with our Scholars Conference at the beginning of the lockdowns. We learned a great deal in that shift, from how to make Zoom function better to watching our attendance grow simply by offering the events for free and online. We continued to offer online events throughout the pandemic and improved our Zoom skills with each event. In the spring of 2022, as the UTO Board and Staff were busily finishing up our preparations for General Convention—from supporting the Children’s Festival to planning events, workshops and booth giveaways – it felt as close to pre-pandemic life as we had been in years. But as news broke of a new wave of COVID and new deaths, not only did we pray for those affected, we began to consider how to make our presence at Convention safe. Based on messages from Executive Council and others, it became clear that gathering a group of this size at that moment in time was a significant risk. We discussed and discerned that UTO, while essential to the ministry of the church, was not essential to General Convention, so the Board made the decision to not attend and to instead pivot the resources and time into an online event and massive mailing project. That decision was quickly affirmed when Executive Council limited General Convention to essential attendees only. Thankfully, UTO’s years of experience in working online made the transition easy (a little labor intensive for our staff and Board, but thankfully they were willing to put in extra time and effort to make it all happen). We also learned that many of the people who attended the three training days (one in Spanish and two in English) would not have been able to attend an in-person event due to the cost of General Convention and travel. Although we plan to return to Convention in 2024 (the 141st anniversary of the first Thank Offering), we plan to scale back the amount of money we spend at Convention so we can ensure that people who can’t make it to Kentucky will still be able to attend events and receive materials and support. Two big lessons we learned from moving online are that getting materials directly to UTO leaders, members, and coordinators is key and that support and training has to be hybrid if not fully online. We plan to continue to live into these important lessons as we make decisions regarding General Convention 2024 and how to best to utilize the funds from the Memorial Trust Fund to support everyone who works to promote gratitude and welcome new members.
Offering a Grateful Welcome
UTO + EMM Partnership
With gratitude at the center of everything we do, one of the United Thank Offering’s guiding principles is showing support for those organizations that are doing amazing work. In 2022, that principle motivated us to partner with Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM) in welcoming strangers with gratitude. Per its mission, EMM welcomes refugees, educates communities, and mobilizes congregations to advocate for the protection and rights of all migrants. EMM has received five UTO grants since 2016, but the impact and scope of their work is never ceasing. In gratitude for the work that EMM does, the UTO Board decided to continue its partnership with EMM by means of raising awareness and targeted fundraising. Throughout the course of the year, UTO and EMM held multiple webinars offering welcome with grateful hearts. In gratitude for new friends, new cultures, and new ideas, we offer welcome. In gratitude for the comfort and safety of our own homes, we offer welcome. And in gratitude for all of the work that EMM does offering welcome and enriching lives of migrants and communities, we offer our partnership. In addition to webinars and raising awareness, UTO also partnered with EMM to host the 3rd annual EpisGOpal Race. Together, we raised over $8,000 towards the 2022 UTO Ingathering, which was then granted to EMM’s Neighbor to Neighbor program. The work that Episcopal Migration Ministries offers to all communities is a gift, and UTO will proudly continue to walk alongside of EMM and support them in their work.
To learn more about Episcopal Migration Ministries:
To sign up for the 2023 EpisGOpal Race supporting EMM:
2022 Julia Chester Emery Internship
Nick Gordon, Diocese of New York
My time as the Julia Chester Emery Intern was filled with so many different experiences and opportunities to learn. The main focus of my time in the internship was working on the Sacred Ground curriculum, which is a film-based dialogue series on race and faith. It was amazing to be immersed in the community of Episcopalians, people of other faith traditions, and people of no faith tradition that are passionate about the work of racial healing and reconciliation. Learning to take on the role of staff support person really became a spiritual practice of sorts as I helped connect grassroots leaders throughout our church and beyond with resources.
In addition to my work with Sacred Ground, I was able to offer support to the work of the Creation Care team through the COP (UN Conference on Climate Change) delegations that represented and provided a witness on behalf of the Episcopal Church. Getting the opportunity to support and hear from Episcopal leaders on climate change was truly transformational for me as I became more aware of the climate change issues and continued my discernment as to how I can best advocate for climate justice within my own context.
The greatest takeaway I have from my time in this UTO internship was the communities and colleagues I got to work with. The staff on the Reconciliation, Justice, and Creation Care team make an incredible witness to the work Episcopalians are doing to bring the Kingdom of God a little bit closer to here on earth. Similarly learning about the work of the United Thank Offering, especially getting to sit in on the grant process, was incredibly inspiring as I got to see the amazing grant applications that come to UTO and the careful discernment of the UTO Board determining which applications will be funded. I am so incredibly grateful to have spent a year and a half as the Julia Chester Emery intern, as I was able to experience and learn from so many amazing leaders throughout the churchwide work of the Episcopal Church.
Turning Your Blessings into Blessings for Others
Icon by Marcy Hall
At a dime a piece, you collected over 5 million thanksgivings in 2022.
This includes donations made from individuals, parishes, and dioceses; Ingathering trusts individuals have set up throughout the year; and money collected through the Great EpisGOpal Race.
in returned grant money.
This includes money that has gone unused from previous UTO grant sites. Since this money was originally given to the Ingathering to be granted, it all goes back into the Ingathering to be granted again.
in interest and trusts.
This includes the Emery Trust award amount, a gift from the UTO Board to the Ingathering, and interest earned on various UTO accounts, which have been specifically designated to the Ingathering.
Thank you to the dioceses listed below for increasing their giving to the UTO Ingathering.
Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Western Massachusetts, Central New York, Long Island, New Jersey, New York, Western New York, Bethlehem, Central Pennsylvania, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Southwestern Virginia, Virginia, Washington, Alabama, Atlanta, East Tennessee, Florida, Lexington, Southeast Florida, Southwest Florida, Tennessee, West Tennessee, Western North Carolina, Indianapolis, Springfield, Western Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming, Northwest Texas, Oklahoma, Rio Grande, West Missouri, Western Louisiana, Alaska, Eastern Oregon, Hawaii, Idaho, Los Angeles, Nevada, Oregon, Spokane, Utah, Puerto Rico, Mexico
Memorial Trust Fund
By making an offering to the MTF, you're committing to the future of UTO and ensuring that gratitude materials are accessible to all.
The United Thank Offering (UTO) Memorial Trust Fund was established in 1982 as a way to ensure that every penny donated to UTO through the Ingathering would be granted to support innovative ministry. Prior to 1982, Ingathering funds were used to offset the cost to promote UTO. Earnings from investment of the trust fund are used to continue the work of UTO by providing for the expenses of the UTO Board and Staff in addition to all the printed resources and promotional items UTO provides for dioceses and parishes.
Thank you to the individuals listed below for donating to the Memorial Trust Fund.
Strengthen connections within and continue to build the UTO community
The UTO community existed before the pandemic, but the pandemic and its isolation made apparent UTO members’ desire to spend time together as a community of grateful people. UTO will continue to provide opportunities for gratitude study and practice together in online webinars, book studies, and worship celebrations to strengthen and grow the UTO community.
Develop and communicate new ways for both individuals and parishes or groups to participate in UTO
The Church has changed dramatically since COVID entered our lives and continues to change at an astonishing pace. One of the greatest changes is the increase in online church attendance rather than physical attendance in churches. Rather than debate the pros and cons of this change, UTO will simply respond to this new reality and will find ways to include online churchgoers as full members of UTO’s grateful community, celebrating, learning, and giving to the Ingathering.
Begin rebuilding the Ingathering by connecting gratitude to giving
UTO will continue to emphasize gratitude as the base value of our ministry and the foundation of grateful lives, but we also want all of that gratitude to lead to grants that will build the Church and spread gratitude around the world. The final element of gratitude is sharing it by connecting with others and giving back.
Thank you for being here!
We're looking forward to a 2023 embraced in gratitude, community, and growth.
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