Despite these problems, collecting tithes and offerings is now a part of almost every church service. How did the practice of ushers passing collection plates take shape? This is another postapostolic invention. It began in 1662, although alms dishes and alms chests were present before then.'
The usher originated from Queen Elizabeth I's (1533-1603) reorganization of the liturgy of the Church of England. Ushers were responsible for walking people to their seats (in part to ensure that reserved spots weren't taken by the wrong people), collecting the offering, and keeping records of who took Communion. The predecessor of the usher was the church "porter," a minor order (lesser clergy) that can be traced back to the third century.' Porters had the
I've detailed a number of these effects in chapter 5, under "How the Pastor Damages Himself."
Many pastors are completely unaware of what they are getting into when they enter professional ministry. I have a young friend who recently resigned from being a Methodist pastor. He told me, "I had no idea what I was getting into until I got into it. It deeply hurt my wife. It was nothing like I had ever imagined." This was not the first time I heard these words. According to Eugene Peterson, "American pastors are abandoning their posts, left and right, and at an alarming rate. They are not leaving their churches and getting other jobs. Congregations still pay their salaries But (these pastors] are abandoning their calling." Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 1.
James Gilchrist, Anglican Church Plate (London: The Connoisseur, 1967), 98-101. Early offering plates were called "alms dishes." The silver alms dish did not appear as a normal part of church furnishing until after the Reformation (Michael Clayton, The Collector's Dictionary of the Silver and Gold of Great Britain and North America [New York: The Word Publishing Company, 1971], 11). According to Charles Cox and Alfred Harvey, the use of alms boxes, collecting boxes, and alms dishes is almost entirely a post-Reformation practice. In medieval times, church buildings had alms chests with a slot in the lid. In the fourteenth century, the alms dish appeared. In the seventeenth century, alms basins began to be passed around by deacons or churchwardens. J. G. Davies, ed., A New Dictionary of Liturgy and Worship (London: SCM Press, 1986), 5-6; Charles Oman, English Church Platte 597-1830 (London: Oxford University Press, 1957);1. Charles Cox and Alfred Harvey, English Church Furniture (EP Publishing Limited, 1973), 240-245; David C. Norrington, "Fund-Raising: The Methods Used in the Early Church Compared with Those Used in English Churches Today," EQ 70, no. 2 (1998): 130. Norrington's entire article is a worthwhile read. He shows that present day "soliciting" methods in church have no analog in the New Testament (pages 115-134).
duty of locking and opening the church doors, keeping order in the building, and providing general direction to the deacons." Porters were replaced by "churchwardens" in England before and during the Reformation period." After the churchwarden came the usher.
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