Missouri congregation ‘gives away the farm’

Presbyterian Giving Catalog’s Family Farm Bundle helps First Presbyterian Church of Fulton live out its commitment to Matthew 25 as 2023-2024 edition launches

by Emily Enders Odom | Presbyterian News Service

The Presbyterian Giving Catalog is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

LOUISVILLE — Like so many people she knows, Mary Osburn has more than she could ever need or want.

Which is exactly why the longtime ruling elder and Mission Committee chair at the First Presbyterian Church of Fulton, Missouri, immediately thought of the Presbyterian Giving Catalog when helping to plan the church’s annual Christmas Fair Trade International Market last year.

“As we began discussions regarding what to promote for our alternative Christmas gift, we noticed that copies of the Giving Catalog were being displayed all throughout the church,” Osburn said. “The decision to help provide the funds for a Family Farm Bundle through the Catalog came from bouncing ideas off each other until the project was born! Giving this sort of gift allows the receiver to know you are thinking of them, while providing a meaningful contribution that could improve the life of someone.”

Now celebrating its 10th anniversary, the increasingly popular Presbyterian Giving Catalog — which is available both in print and online, in English, Spanish and Korean — is filled with a wide variety of gifts that provide real and positive impact around the world, including agricultural tools and training, livestock, aid kits, access to clean water and helping to end hunger.

The 2023-2024 edition started mailing on Sept. 15.

After selecting the farm bundle as its Giving Catalog project, the congregation, a member of Missouri Union Presbytery, then turned to the Matthew 25 vision to help interpret it.

“Because we are a Matthew 25 Church, we chose to offer an alternative Christmas gift which would support the Matthew 25 focus on eradicating systemic poverty,” said the church’s pastor, the Rev. Aaron J. White. “We knew that the gift that we would eventually purchase would empower our neighbors in the world to achieve economic self-sufficiency.”

White explained that for a suggested contribution of $10, church members, visitors and friends were able to buy a wooden farm animal ornament to decorate the tree in their own homes.

Children at First Presbyterian Church of Fulton, Missouri, add splashes of color to Christmas ornaments. (Contributed photo)

But it was the church’s children who gave the project their own unique fingerprint.

“As we moved ahead with our plans, we decided to invite the children in our congregation, along with those in the Fulton Preschool, which meets in our building, to help us add a little color to our ornaments,” he said. “The children took paint and markers to the wooden cows, pigs and chickens, turning each one into its own distinct masterpiece! And while they decorated, it provided us with an opportunity to educate them about their ability to love and care for people, even though they might be half a world away!”

It was just this simple idea — that small gifts can make a big impact in the world — that was behind the birth of the Presbyterian Giving Catalog.

“For the past 10 years, the Presbyterian Giving Catalog has provided a creative, innovative means for Presbyterians to generously support mission,” said the Rev. Dr. John Wilkinson, director of Ministry Engagement and Support. “As the ways that Presbyterians support important mission and ministry continue to evolve, I am deeply grateful that the Giving Catalog welcomes gifts of all sizes and varieties, and, more importantly, supports the life-changing, transformative mission and ministry so crucial to our Presbyterian witness.”

At First Presbyterian Church of Fulton, Missouri, the Presbyterian Giving Catalog has become a go-to for church gift-givers. (Contributed photo)

The new 2023 – 2024 Giving Catalog offers a total of 43 items — large, small and in between ­— to fit everyone’s missional interests and budget.

By far the Giving Catalog’s most popular gifts are the family of chickens, sewing machine, garden well, educate a child, farming tools, piglet, pair of goats, kitchen kit, fishing kit and jerry cans. To help congregations and individuals in making their choice, the Giving Catalog’s order form highlights the “Top $50 and under gifts.”

One of this year’s new items is “Community Sustainability,” available in $25 increments, a gift that offers a reliable source of income that can have a profound impact on families and communities. The new Giving Catalog also features I Spy Activity and Resources and Ornament Templates and Instructions, something that may come in handy as the children of First Presbyterian plan for Christmas 2023.

“Given last year’s success, we’re eager to raise funds once again for another purchase from the Presbyterian Giving Catalog,” said White. “This year, we’re celebrating our new call to be an Earth Care Congregation and the success of the Native Plants Pollinator Garden, which conservationist and Elder Judy McKinnon designed and implemented on our church grounds. So, we’re planning to sell special beeswax ornaments. And, with the funds we raise, we’ll be purchasing Beekeeping Gifts, so that we can promote the crucial work of pollination while also helping farmers to supplement their earnings through the sale of honey.”

Children at First Presbyterian Church of Fulton, Missouri, lend their creative gifts to ornaments. (Contributed photo)

Osburn is already busy making plans.

“I found wooden bees and honey jars that I will have the children of the congregation and Fulton Preschool decorate to once again include them in this year’s alternative Christmas gift project,” she said. “Several of our older members will help decorate ornaments too as they did last year during our midweek lunch group, ‘Lunch Bunch.’ This way people may choose between beeswax or hand-decorated bee ornaments.”

Although the congregation is relatively small, White said that he was reminded through the Giving Catalog project that “God works through us to accomplish mighty works.”

“We went from little wooden animals decorated by our children to living, breathing creatures that have the potential to change people’s lives,” he said. “As we offered this gift to someone in the world, we remembered that we did this in celebration of the incarnate God who had come into our lives. And now, we as the Church were blessed to be the living presence of Christ in the lives of others.”

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