Born in World War II’s aftermath, the offering remains a lifeline for people in need
by Pat Cole | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — As the world struggled to recover from the ravages of a global war, churches across America bore witness to their faith in a united act of generosity that helped relieve human suffering.
On Easter Sunday in 1949, the offering now known as One Great Hour of Sharing was received for the first time. It brought much-needed aid to people reeling from the destruction World War II, which had ended just four years earlier. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) joined other mainline Protestant denominations as well as Anglican and Orthodox communions in this effort.
The offering has continued to be received every year, and 2019 marks the 70th anniversary of this ecumenical effort to address pressing human needs. Gifts received in Presbyterian congregations today support Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, the Presbyterian Hunger Program and Self-Development of People ministries.
“For 70 years, gifts from One Great Hour of Sharing have enabled our church and other churches to make a difference for people in distress,” said Bryce Wiebe, director of Special Offerings for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). “Lives are changed thanks to the generous people who give each year to One Great Hour of Sharing. We are grateful for every person who gives.”
The first offering was promoted via a national radio broadcast on the Saturday evening prior to Easter. A host of famous people appeared on the program including President Harry Truman and actors Gregory Peck and Ida Lupino.
Truman opened the “One Great Hour” broadcast by urging listeners to “build a new world, a far better world in which the dignity of (all humanity) is respected.”
The name of the radio program was adopted into the name of the offering the following year, and it became known as One Great Hour of Sharing.
In the 1960s, the scope of One Great Hour of Sharing was expanded to include both national and international needs. The decision to include national concerns came in an era when domestic poverty was receiving national attention. Today, all three PC(USA) programs supported by One Great Hour of Sharing address both domestic and worldwide needs.
For many Presbyterians and other Christians, stories related to the work of One Great Hour of Sharing have become an integral part of their Lenten observance. The One Great Hour of Sharing tradition has continued in part because it has included an emphasis on involving children. Generations of Sunday school children have learned about stewardship and mission support by putting coins into fish banks.
While most congregations receive the offering on Palm Sunday or Easter Sunday, it can be received at any time. Last year Presbyterian gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing topped $6 million, an increase of more than 7.5 percent over 2017. After several years of decrease, 2018 marked the second year in a row that One Great Hour of Sharing gifts increased over the previous year.
“We are grateful beyond measure that giving to One Great Hour of Sharing is on the upswing,” Wiebe said. “The Special Offerings staff has worked hard to clearly communicate to more and more Presbyterians the good work that is being done around the world because of One Great Hour of Sharing and our church’s three other Special Offerings. We can’t thank Presbyterians enough for their generous response.”
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Categories: Special Offerings
Tags: committee on the self-development of people, One Great Hour of Sharing, presbyterian disaster assistance, presbyterian hunger program, Special Offerings
Ministries: Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People, Compassion, Peace and Justice, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, Presbyterian Hunger Program