How God Got His Money

Dr. Deidra Suwannee Dees ponders the question: How does the money from the offering plate get all the way to God?

There were only a few people of color at our small Southern church: my Muscogee family and a Latino family. My family unconsciously blended in with Whites, without knowing we were not supposed to.

All week, we worked hard, me and my siblings helping Daddy with his job as janitor after school by sweeping classrooms, cleaning toilets, taking out garbage; then going to the farm to chop cotton, hoe cotton, grind corn for the cows. Sunday was the only day we got a reprieve from hard labor. We got to shed dirty work clothes and dress up for a day.

Daddy was a respected deacon at our church, where he served as an usher, accountant and greeter who handed out the church bulletins when people walked into the vestibule. He counted the money in the offering plates that were passed around during church at the morning and evening services every Sunday. He said the money was collected for God. He often was called upon by the preacher to pray before the offering was collected, thanking God for the money they were about to receive.

In my childhood mind, I wondered how they got the money from the offering plates to God, who was unseen somewhere up in the smoke from our home fires that carried our prayers to the heavens. How did God get the money?

While the preacher expounded his sermon, we five children sat well behaved in the church pew waiting for daddy to rejoin us after he finished counting the money. As the preacher advanced himself closer to the congregation by leaning over the pulpit and speaking pointed words about God, my mind wandered. I imagined that Daddy put the money all together in one offering plate after he counted it, then carried it up on the roof of the church. I imagined coins, wadded up dollars, paper money all laying bare in the open offering plate. I thought how a gentle breeze high up on the rooftop might blow the dollars slightly, making them shift around a little bit in the offering plate, waiting for God to come get his money. I reckoned that God, at some point, must come and take the money from the offering plate because the plates always started out empty the subsequent Sunday.

In my childhood mind, I wondered how they got the money from the offering plates to God, who was unseen somewhere up in the smoke from our home fires that carried our prayers to the heavens.

I grew a little older, and the procedures at our church changed. As respected clergy, Daddy was asked not only to count the money, but also to take the offering from the Sunday services to the bank. After the evening church service, we piled into his old pickup truck that had a hard time running, and we rode with Daddy as he drove us to the bank to deposit the money, which he had placed inside a white letter-sized envelope for the bank depository.

Under the dimly lit awning on the side of the bank, we children asked Daddy if we could place the envelope into the night depository. Daddy told us, if we would take turns, he would let us put the envelope into the slot. When it was my week, I pushed the envelope filled with money into the slot, feeling exceptionally gratified to deposit the money for God. Ellanae put the enveloped money into the slot for her week, then Nadine, then Lori, then Charlie. Then it was my turn again.

Several times, the envelope was almost too fat to fit into the slot. Daddy had to help push it, wedge it, wiggle it through the slot to make it go in, remarking contentedly, “God got a lot more money in the offering plates today.”

With each deposit, I came to understand my childhood thinking about the church’s rooftop had been wrong. I finally realized how God got his money. He got it from the bank.

Dr. Deidra Suwanee Dees and her family descend from the Hotvlkvlke (Wind Clan) and follow Muscogee stompdance traditions. Dr. Dees is author of the chapbook, “Vision Lines: Native American Decolonizing Literature.” She serves as director and tribal archivist of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. She teaches in the Native American Studies Program at the University of South Alabama.


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