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Reflecting on #GivingTuesday leads stewardship scholar to lessons he learned in Sunday school


Singing ‘This Little Light of Mine’ celebrated mission pennies stuffed into a lighthouse bank

by Pat Cole | Presbyterian News Service

Stewardship educator William Enright says, “Most everything I needed to know about giving I learned in Sunday school.” (Courtesy of Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy)

LOUISVILLE — While reading online invitations to participate in #GivingTuesday, a Presbyterian pastor and stewardship educator took a stroll down memory lane to the values he learned as a child.

In a Presbyterian Mission Agency blog post, the Rev. Dr. William Enright, a prolific writer and speaker on stewardship, said what he was reading prompted him to consider why he gave and how he first learned to give.  His answer, he admitted, caught him by surprise.  He concluded, “Most everything I needed to know about giving I learned in Sunday school.”

#GivingTuesday is a global day of giving that has been observed annually on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving since 2012. It is described by its organizers as having “one common purpose: to celebrate and encourage giving.”

Giving was celebrated and encouraged during monthly birthday celebrations in Enright’s childhood Sunday school class.  During the celebration, the lights were turned off and children who had birthdays that month brought their pennies to the front of the room. “What followed was magical,” he said. “As we put our pennies into the mouth of the lighthouse, the beacon began to flash, and while it illuminated the darkness, we began to sing, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.”

At the end of the year, the pennies collected were sent to a missionary who worked with children in Africa. “And a simple but profound theological maxim was forever etched in my mind, he said. “It is via our giving that God’s light shines brighter in the world.”

Enright is founding director emeritus of the Lake Institute on Faith and Giving at Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and pastor emeritus of Second Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis.

He said #GivingTuesday’s observance in the wake of the “commercial craze of Black Friday and Cyber Monday” serves as “a timely reminder that life is more about giving than getting.”

#Giving Tuesday was created by the 92nd Street Y, a cultural and community center, in partnership with the United Nations Foundation.

#GivingTuesday encompasses a broad range of organizations, including many faith-based groups. Last year the movement reached into more than 150 countries. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has taken part in #GivingTuesday for the past five years and has created a #GivingTuesday webpage, which presents several ways to support Presbyterian Mission on #GivingTuesday.

For Enright, the lessons about giving learned in Sunday school shape the way he sees #GivingTuesday. “For me, Giving Tuesday provides me the opportunity to express my gratitude to my church by contributing to the many faces of our worldwide Presbyterian Mission,” he said. “After all, most everything I needed to know about giving I learned in Sunday school.”

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