Proclaiming the Good News of God in Christ

Outreach and Mission

All Things UTO

All Things UTO
Sandra Squires, President United Thank Offering Board

Let me tell you about a couple of UTO events—one local and one not so local.  First the story of Amy Churchill, member of St. Augustine’s of Canterbury in Elkhorn, who has recently taken over the job of UTO parish coordinator.  Amy is a wife and mother of two adorable little girls, and had her first experience with the entire cycle of implementing UTO—she visited Sunday school classes, got bulletin inserts where they needed to be and did an AWESOME job with Ingathering Sunday.  We even wore blue clothes to church to celebrate the historic UTO Blue Boxes.

Amy Churchill

Amy Churchill, St. Augustine’s UTO Parish Coordinator

Amy made it so much fun, and yesterday she even sat with me to talk to a new UTO parish coordinator and her priest.  It was a privilege to work with her and probably one of the most fun parts of my job as President of the UTO is connecting with new coordinators to share the excitement of this great ministry.

The “not-so-local” part of my life the last few months has been the review of grant requests for UTO funds.  Grant requests come in from the United States and all over the world—many from places of great poverty and need, but where someone has a vision of making the world a better place to the glory of God.

I can’t tell you about this year’s grants because they haven’t been announced yet, but I can tell about a couple of examples of past Nebraska grants that have touched people’s lives in different ways.  In celebration of 125 years of ministry, our UTO staff person, The Rev. Heather Melton, compiled a list of all the 5122 grants that had been awarded between 1883 and 2015.  Here is the link:

If you are a history buff, you will love reading this list!  Nebraska is in Province 6.  Last summer I found a grant awarded to my church, St. Augustine’s (Elkhorn) in 1984 for $4,000 “to assist volunteer efforts of a mission parish as it converts a barn to a church building.” How exciting is that!

Last year one of UTO’s most important grant awards was “Friends of Tamar,” awarded to Trinity Cathedral in Omaha, grant number 5100.  This awesome project is “to challenge violence against women and pursue peace and reconciliation.”  If you had the opportunity to hear Teresa Houser speak at Annual Council this past fall or to collect suitcases for Friends of Tamar, you know this ministry is in good hands. UTO is the proud sponsor of a part-time staff position for Friends of Tamar.

From buildings to staff positions, UTO gives the money you give in thanksgiving to others through grants.  I thank you for the daily reminders of prayer of thanksgiving for those small and large blessings in our lives that you manifest by dropping a coin or a bill in your Little Blue Box.  Remember, every penny given to your blue box goes to grants.


Sandra Squires


Blue dinosaur cake

Blue dinosaur cake

The Rowe family demonstrates the results of eating the blue cakes!

The Rowe family demonstrates the results of eating the blue cakes!

More blue cake!

More blue cake!

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What is UTO?

Sandra Squires, UTO President

Sandra Squires, UTO President

Hello, from Sandra Squires and the United Thank Offering (UTO) Board! From now until the summer of 2018, I will be serving as president of UTO, and hope to share some insights into the great ministry of UTO, and share some of my journey in this role. In this opening offering, I will address some basic questions about UTO, then tell you about my experiences in subsequent columns.


What is United Thank Offering?

UTO is a ministry that is associated with the Blue Boxes and thankful giving, and I have people tell me, “Oh, I remember I had a Blue Box as a child!” or “We called them mite boxes, and, yes, I had one I put my pennies into.” Well, we still have Blue Boxes, and we still ask you to remember to drop a coin in the box each time you thank God for the many blessings in your life. Then bring your boxes, or at least their contents, to the church during Ingathering Sundays.


What does UTO do with the money from the Blue Boxes?

Just as it has for 125+ years, United Thank Offering uses every penny of the money from the Blue Boxes to support ministries all over the world. In fact, this past summer, Trinity Cathedral was awarded a grant to help women fleeing from domestic violence, you may know it as the Suitcase Project.


How does the Board decide who gets the money?

Grants. The Board members read a lot of grant applications. People apply for grants, these are evaluated, then UTO awards the money. We give grants to young adults and seminarians, and to parishes and dioceses for ministry in the United States and throughout the world.

Last year we awarded over $1.5 million in grants, but we had $4.5 million in fundable grant requests– so keep adding to the Blue Boxes and being thankful for your many blessings so we can award even more grants.


Does Blue Box money pay for UTO Board travel and overhead?

No, every penny collected in the Blue Boxes goes to grants. We have a fund, the Memorial Gift Trust Fund, that funds the travel for the volunteer Board.


Sandra Squires

St. Augustine’s of Canterbury, Elkhorn



Your "little blue box" changes lives!

Your “little blue box” changes lives!

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2016 Youth Mission Team to the Dominican Republic is Forming NOW !!!


Rowan Ptomey, Uniting Hearts

The Diocese of Nebraska will continue its work in the mountains of central Dominican Republic June 15-22, 2016. High school youth over the age of sixteen, and their leaders, from across our Diocese will engage upon relationship building with the community of El Pedregal. This is the place we have helped complete several construction projects in recent years. We are now called to minister directly to our brothers and sisters of the community.

Potential ministry projects may include VBS with Bible exploration through special art and music projects. Other social ministry projects addressing the specific needs of the community, such as the distribution of supplies to those in need, are also being considered. It is also likely that we will do existing facility improvement involving painting or minor repairs in the community.


The Mortar Bucket Brigade – Working Together

Our Wednesday to Wednesday itinerary permits a unique opportunity to visit the Diocesan Offices and Seminary, and experience worship at the Epiphany Cathedral in Santo Domingo. Our experience will once again culminate in discovery of the Historic Colonial Zone where we will visit, shop and relax on our final afternoon and evening prior to returning home.

Our work in EL Pedregal will be directed by Padre Daniel Samuel. We will stay in dormitory-style accommodations at the gated Diocesan Camp where our meals will be specially prepared for us. Safe, bottled water will also be available. Team orientation to mission work, Dominican culture, and team building will occur beginning in March 2016 to prepare us for this life affirming opportunity.



The cost for the 2016 Mission will be $1500. A $100 deposit is necessary now to confirm participation, and all funds must be paid by May 8, 2016. Deposits may be sent to Beth Byrne, Diocesan Director of Finance, at 109 North 18th Street, Omaha NE 68102. Deposits may also be given to Don or Melissa Peeler.




Improving the Playground

How can you help?

First, please keep our 2015 NE Youth DR Mission Team in your prayers. Second, school supplies, books and used laptops may be donated for delivery this June to the School of the Mount of the Transfiguration. All donated laptops will be returned to factory settings prior to delivery. Finally, you may financially support this mission to change lives by sending monetary gifts to Beth Byrne, Diocesan Director of Finance, at 109 North 18th Street, Omaha NE 68102. Please indicate your gift is to support the NE Youth DR Mission.

Please contact Don and Melissa Peeler at 402-572-7556, or at, with any questions you may have regarding this life affirming ministry. If you would like the Peelers to visit your parish to speak on DR Youth Ministry, please contact them. The 2016 mission will be their 8th mission to the Dominican Republic, and the Peelers are happy to share their experience.



Join Our Team…the Life Changed Will Be Your Own!










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2016 UTO Young Adult and Seminarian Grant Application Process and Forms



Linked below are the invitation letter, applications and bishops/deans forms for the Young Adult and Seminarian Grant Programs from the United Thank Offering. We are pleased to announce that not only are we accepting grant applications from Young Adults, the UTO Board has also created a process for seminarians to apply for UTO grants for projects either at their field education site or in their home diocese.

There are a couple of changes from last year for the Young Adult grants:
Instead of awarding one per province, the Board will select the top ten applications to fund.
A video is not required, but applicants are welcome to submit one if they feel so called.
Just a reminder that Young Adult grants are for projects led by people 21-30 (not for projects to minister to that age group)

All of the applications are also available on our website –


The deadline for applications from the Diocese to my office is January 29th at 5 p.m. Eastern time.

If you have questions, please let me know.

All the best,

Heather Melton

2016 Young Adult Application

2016 Young Adult Bishop Approval

2016 Seminarian Application

2016 Seminarian Dean Approval Form

2016 Young Adult Seminarian Invitation Letter from UTO

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2016 United Thank Offering Grant Applications Now Accepted



Applications are now accepted for the 2016 United Thank Offering grants.  The application forms are available here.

The focus for the 2016 United Thank Offering grants is Mark Five of the Anglican Marks of Mission: To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth. 

“The United Thank Offering is continuing its tradition of thankfulness by awarding grants for 2016,” commented Sandra K. Squires, Ed.D., United Thank Offering Board President.

Established by United Thank Offering, a ministry of The Episcopal Church to promote thankfulness and mission in the whole Church, the purpose of the grants is to provide start-up money for a new project that focuses on the Fifth Mark of Mission. The funds are not permitted for the continuation of ongoing ministries.

Detailed guidelines for applying for the grants are here.   The deadline is 5 pm Eastern on Friday, March 4.

The list of allowable and projects not eligible are listed here.

Known worldwide as UTO, the United Thank Offering grants are awarded for projects that address human needs and help alleviate poverty, both domestically and internationally in The Episcopal Church.

Important notes
The United Thank Offering will accept:
• grant applications for start-up costs of a new ministry.
• one grant application per diocese within The Episcopal Church;
• one additional application for a companion grant from a diocese of The Episcopal Church may be submitted. This relationship may be formed with an aided diocese from The Episcopal Church or with a diocese from The Anglican Communion. The sponsoring bishop with jurisdiction will be responsible for the accounting of the grant.

For more information about guidelines and applications, contact the Rev. Heather Melton, missioner for United Thank Offering,

Spanish materials
United Thank Offering materials are available in Spanish and are available for download here. Included are both Blue Box designs which can be printed out on cardstock, cut and folded.

“The hope is that offering the materials for download will allow our dioceses that would have had to pay a high fee for shipping or import into their country to have access to United Thank Offering materials for just the cost of printing in their diocese or parish,” Melton added.

More information
For more information contact Melton at

The Five Marks of Mission are:
To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
To teach, baptize and nurture new believers
To respond to human need by loving service
To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation
To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth

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“I Stand by the Door” – Rev. Sam Shoemaker

Nancy Brown and the Recovery Commission of the Diocese of Nebraska submitted this beautiful poem by the Rev. Sam Shoemaker as a reminder to keep our doors open and warmly welcome all our brothers and sisters into our lives and our churches in the Christmas season just ahead.


     By Rev. Sam Shoemaker
doorI stand by the door.
I neither go too far in, nor stay too far out,
The door is the most important door in the world—
It is the door through which men walk when they find God.
There’s no use my going way inside, and staying there,
When so many are still outside, and they, as much as I, Crave to know where the door is.
And all that so many ever find
Is only the wall where a door ought to be. They creep along the wall like blind men. With outstretched, groping hands,
Feeling for a door, knowing there must be a door, Yet they never find it . . .
So I stay near the door.
“The  most  tremendous  thing  in  the  world Is for men to find that door—the door to God. The most important thing any man can do
Is to take hold of one of those blind, groping hands, And put it on the latch—the latch that only clicks
And opens to the man’s own touch.
Men die outside that door, as starving beggars die On cold nights in cruel cities in the dead of winter— Die for want of what is within their grasp.
They live, on the other side of it—live because they have found it. Nothing  else  matters  compared  to  helping  them  find  it,   And open it, and walk in, and find Him . . .
So I stay near the door.
“Go in, great saints, go all the way in— Go way down into the cavernous cellars, And way up into the spacious attics—
In a vast, roomy house, this house where God is. Go   into  the  deepest  of  hidden   casements, Of withdrawal, of silence, of sainthood.
Some must inhabit those inner rooms, And know the depths and heights of God,
And call outside to the rest of us how wonderful it is. Sometimes I take a deeper look in,
Sometimes venture a little farther;
But my place seems closer to the opening . . . So I stay near the door.
“The people too far in do not see how near these are To leaving—preoccupied with the wonder of it all.
Somebody must watch for those who have entered the door, But would like to run away. So for them, too,
I stay near the door.
 “I admire the people who go way in.
But I wish they would not forget how it was
Before they got in. Then they would be able to help The people who have not even found the door,
Or the people who want to run away again from God. You can go in too deeply, and stay in too long,
And   forget   the   people   outside   the   door. As for me, I shall take my old accustomed place,
Near enough to God to hear Him, and know He is there, But not so far from men as not to hear them,
And remember they are there too. Where? Outside the door— Thousands of them, millions of them. But—more important for me—
One of them, two of them, ten of them,
Whose hands I am intended to put on the latch, So I shall stay by the door and wait
For those who seek it.
 ‘I had rather be a door-keeper . . .’ So I stay near the door.”


Note: Rev. Sam Shoemaker was a co-founder of A.A.
For more information on Rev. Shoemaker, see this link

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Amid Discussions on Refugees, Remember Fr. Kano from Nebraska

Bishop J. Scott Barker

Bishop J. Scott Barker

I am dismayed by the fear expressed by Americans towards people of foreign nations over the past few weeks. I am reminded of some basic lessons of our shared Nebraska history.

On December 7, 1941, Imperial Japan attacked the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor. In the immediate wake of this declaration of war, the FBI arrested some 1,200 leaders in America’s Japanese communities, most of whom were suspected but never charged as spies and were eventually detained in internment camps.

Among those community leaders was the Rev. Hiram Hisanori Kano, Episcopal priest of St. Mary’s Church in Mitchell and St. George’s Church in North Platte. Father Kano, who had immigrated to the United States from Japan in 1916, was imprisoned because he was identified as a leader in the community of first-generation Japanese immigrants who worked on the railroads and farms of western Nebraska.

While interned, Father Kano continued to serve as a priest, educator and pastor, conducting worship services, organizing classes and workshops, and trying to spread hope among the incarcerated. According to his son Cyrus, Father Kano asked himself, “God put me here, what does He want me to do?”

In the wake of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, we again find ourselves afraid, suspecting that Muslim refugees, and indeed anyone who adheres to the Islamic faith, may harbor the intent to harm us and the nation we love.

In that fear, we find ourselves publicly discussing the possibility of depriving Muslim-Americans of their rights as U.S. citizens, and turning our backs on immigrants, including those who had the courage to flee their homes rather than submit to living or dying under terrorist regimes. Some, including a number of politicians, are calling for a virtual end to all immigration, and are considering the prospect of leaving every refugee out in the cold as a viable option.

I am reminded of the lesson taught by the life of Father Kano and wonder how we might best answer the question he asked himself so long ago: “What does He want me to do?”

For a follower of Jesus the answer to that question is clear. We are called to show compassion to “the least,” including prisoners and refugees.

We are called to respect the dignity of every human being — for surely every human being is created in the image of God. We are called to love our enemies, including certainly both those we rationally and irrationally fear, remembering that God is love, and that “there is no fear in love” (1 John 4:18).

Our fears that this nation might face attacks like those in Paris are not unjustified. But in the face of such concern, we hear a single message repeated over and over again. “Do not be afraid,” the angel said to the startled virgin. “Do not be afraid,” the Lord said to the vexed refugee who still awaited the promised child. “Do not be afraid,” the prophet said to a people scattered in exile. “Do not be afraid,” the liberator said to the nation when their captor’s army approached. “Do not be afraid,” God’s messenger said to the terrified shepherds (Luke 1:30, Genesis 15:1, Isaiah 41:10, Exodus 14:13, Luke 2:10).

Christ’s message of hope and courage is the same to humankind in every age. If we do not surrender to our fears, we can find ways to love our neighbors as ourselves, whether those neighbors are in the house next door, the next town over or half a world away.

Our borders must remain open. Our nation must continue to welcome new citizens from all nations and all religious traditions. Remember Father Kano. Choose love … and be not afraid.

+ Bishop Barker


Bishop Barker’s commentary also appeared in the Omaha World Herald on December 9th, 2015, at this link.

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“On the Road Again” with the Trinity Cathedral Choir


Trinity Cathedral Choir singing Lessons and Carols in Seward in 2010, with Rev. Helen Goltl

On Sunday, December 13, the Trinity Cathedral Choir and Handbell Ensemble will present an Advent Festival of Lessons and Carols at 4:00 p.m. at St. James Episcopal Church, 301 E. 5th Street, Fremont, Nebraska. The traditional Anglican service of readings and music is designed to prepare us for the coming of Christ at Christmas.

Each December, cathedral musicians travel to a parish in the Diocese of Nebraska to share the gift of music. Those “road trips” have included visits to these parishes:

2007 – St. Martin’s, Omaha
2008 – St. Mary’s, Nebraska City
2009 – St. James, Fremont
2010 – St. Andrew’s, Seward
2011 – St. Martin’s, Omaha
2012 – St. Augustine’s, Elkhorn
2013 – St. Mary’s, Blair
2014 – Trinity, Norfolk

This year’s festival is one of a series of events celebrating the new Allen organ at St. James Church. An extended prelude will showcase the sounds of the instrument with music by composers ranging from Johann Sebastian Bach to contemporary Nebraska composer and organist, Michael McCabe.

Twenty-four cathedral musicians, as well as several spouses, friends, and clergy, will travel to Fremont for lunch and a rehearsal, followed by the choral service. The annual trip provides an enjoyable opportunity for fellowship in the midst of the busy December choir schedule. We are blessed with magnificent musical resources at Trinity Cathedral, and we rejoice in opportunities to share those gifts with our friends and neighbors throughout the diocese.

Trinity Cathedral Choir, with Deacon Ellen Ross, Dr. Marty Wheeler Burnett, Dean Craig Loya

Trinity Cathedral Choir, with Deacon Ellen Ross, Dr. Marty Wheeler Burnett, Dean Craig Loya

All are welcome to attend. A reception will follow the liturgy. A freewill offering with be received benefitting Jefferson House, a local youth shelter, and Downtown Episcopal Outreach (DEO).

God willing, next year will mark our tenth annual Lessons and Carols on the Road. Where will we go? An epic Nebraska road trip may be in the works to celebrate!

Marty Wheeler Burnett, D.Min.
Canon Precentor, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral

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UTO Bulletin Insert: Second Sunday of Advent

Advent Challenge: Journey from Gratitude to Hope

(image courtesy of Episcopal Digital Network)

Advent is a time of waiting and watching. We pray and sing, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” reliving the beginning of our sacred story, entering into that liminal and holy space of hope. Each year, we are secure in our knowledge of the story’s resolution. The Christ child will be born. God will come among us. Mary and Joseph will flee with the infant Jesus as refugees, escaping the murderous King Herod, fleeing to Egypt in a reversal of the Exodus. The child who would become the Savior of the world will begin his life as a refugee.

This Advent season, our world faces the largest refugee crisis ever known – 60 million displaced, nearly 20 million of whom are refugees, half of whom are children. Four million Syrian refugees have fled civil war and terrorism in their country, and the number continues to grow. Here in the United States, refugees, especially Syrian refugees, have received increasing attention in the media. Programs funding refugees are in jeopardy of being cut or severely limited, which would result in this most vulnerable population of new Americans having limited access to food, housing, health care and the other basic needs they need to get on their feet during their first few months in the United States.

In response, the United Thank Offering board is challenging Episcopalians to take part in an important part of refugee welcome in the United States through its 2015 Ingathering Challenge, which will support Episcopal Migration Ministries, the refugee resettlement service of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society. Deemed the 2015 Advent Challenge: Journey from Gratitude to Hope, United Thank Offering will match the first $30,000 given by December 31, 2015 that is marked “EMM-UTO.” The challenge will continue throughout December 2015.

Known worldwide as UTO, the United Thank Offering grants are awarded for projects that address human needs and help alleviate poverty, both domestically and internationally in The Episcopal Church.

The Rev. Heather Melton, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s Missioner for United Thank Offering, noted, “Episcopalians are encouraged to begin using their United Thank Offering Blue Box as an expression of gratitude this Thanksgiving and to continue the journey with United Thank Offering and Episcopal Migration Ministries through Advent toward the hope Episcopalians embrace through the birth of the Christ child.”

To Donate
Checks or online donations should have UTO-EMM in the memo line/comments section.
Donations are also accepted online at just select UTO from the drop down menu and then put EMM in the comments.

Submit checks to:

United Thank Offering
DFMS – Protestant Episcopal Church
P.O. Box 958983
St. Louis, MO 63195-8983
Check notation: UTO-EMM

United Thank Offering
The Episcopal Church
815 Second Avenue
New York City, New York 10017
Check notation: UTO-EMM

You can download bulletin inserts here as PDFs:

Full size
Full Size Black-and-white insert
Full Size Color insert


Half-size Black-and-white insert
HalfSize Color insert


(This article is reprinted from the Episcopal Digital Network)

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All Call Omaha Kiva Party November 7th

aco-heart-onlyTwo of our four outstanding All Call Omaha Kiva loans are now 90% paid back, and the two others are 50% paid back–so, we have several hundred dollars in our Kiva fund we need to reloan! Come to Trinity Cathedral to help the Friends of Tamar at their Suitcase Packing Party from  10:00 am-12:00 pm, Saturday, November 7, and as you do, you can find out more about Kiva, join our team of lenders, and help select our next loan recipients.

LatiffanyThis is Latiffany, from New York, our most recent All Call Omaha loan recipient.  For many years, Latiffany (who lives in New York) was acutely aware of the shortage of affordable and stylish clothing for plus-sized women. Starting in 2012, she decided to address the need by starting an online site that sold fashionable clothing at economical prices. Since the launch of her online site, Latiffany has successfully organized the Ms. Kurvie NY Pageant and has seen an increase in customers. With this loan, Latiffany was able to purchase more merchandise and supplies for her store. In the future, she hopes to open additional stores and find new ways to work as an advocate for female empowerment.  Latiffany is now almost 50% repaid on her loan!


Here is the status of the other All Call Omaha Kiva loans:




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