CLEVELAND — At church in Tremont on Sunday, an anonymous donor wanted to spread kindness throughout the city during the month of Lent, so the donor gave enough money to give everyone in the congregation at Pilgrim Congregation United Church of Christ a $100 bill, with the hopes of creating a ripple effect of good during the season of Lent.
On certain Sundays, particularly the one before Mardi Gras, things can get a little quirky at the Tremont church. This year, the Sunday service featured a Dixie Land Band, beads, boas, a Cajun lunch and a special surprise.
During her sermon, Pastor Kelly Burd asked the congregation to picture the ripple effect that occurs when a pebble is tossed into a still pond. She compared this effect to when someone does good in their community, it creates a ripple effect of kindness.
She concluded the sermon by asking everyone to take opportunities during the Lenten season to create their own ripple effect.
What happened next surprised everyone sitting in the congregation, and even brought some members to tears.
She called everyone up, about 137 congregation members, to come forward and receive an envelope.
“There are many ways to do good and to create a ripple effect of generosity,” said Burd. “One of those ways is with money. What you hold in your hand is a gift from an anonymous donor. It comes with an invitation to prayerfully and mindfully look for someone who could use a blessing right now. Just listen to where the Holy Spirit is leading you. You may be in the right place at the right time to bless somebody because you have this money. Notice what happens in your heart as you give it away. Watch for the ripple effect that you can see, and imagine the ripple effect that you are creating, that which you won’t see.”
Pastor Burd said the anonymous donor, who is a member of the congregation, came to her a couple months prior to the service and talked about wanting to do something good. The donor read about a similar project in Cincinnati and was inspired to do the same.
She asked every member to think long and hard about what to do with the money.
"It could be someone you see in the grocery store, someone waiting for a bus, a coworker, or an organization," Burd said. "It could be someone from our church, someone in your family. It could be strangers, or our neighbors. Just listen to where the Holy Spirit is leading you. Really search yourself. You may be in the right place at the right time to bless somebody because you have this money. And notice what happens in your heart as you give it away."
Burd said the members of her church come from diverse socio-economic backgrounds, ranging from judges to teachers to some who struggle with homelessness. So when some received the $100, they found themselves in a dilemma.
"Some were really torn because some struggle financially. They didn't know what to do and wanted to use it to pay bills," said Burd, who said being given a $100 bill challenged everyone in some sort of way.
"I told many members to use it prayerfully and to make their own decision, no one will judge you, it's yours to do with as you see fit," she added.
Throughout the season of Lent, congregation plans to share their ripple stories with each other.