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DONATIONS ARE A PRIVATE MATTER

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Dear Abby: You told "Churchgoer in Plano, Texas": "While the person who gives to the church once a year may be very generous, those who see him passing the basket without putting anything in may assume he's giving nothing, which sets a poor example for others."

Without appearing sanctimonious, may I point out how Jesus instructed us to give: "So, when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." (Matthew 6:2-4)Abby, I am one of the few who count the collection after church each week. We do not care who gives monthly, weekly - or never. The only reason we keep track of how much individuals give is to provide them with income tax statements at the end of the year.

- Janet Saulter-Hemmer,

United Methodist Church,

Boonton, N.J.

Dear Janet Saulter-Hemmer: You were not the only reader who was critical of my response to "Churchgoer." Read on:

Dear Abby: A woman at our church once told the church secretary that "so-and-so" who sat near her rarely put anything in the collection plate. The secretary wisely told her that so-and-so gave monthly - and why did it matter to her?

Abby, I've counted offerings for 25 years and find it pathetic that some people are so intimidated by the opinions of others that I often find empty sealed envelopes in the collection basket.

You blew that one, Abby. Sign me . . .

- Giving Is Private,

Gladstone, Mo.

Dear Giving: You're right. I blew it big-time. Wait - there's more. Read on:

Dear Abby: You really missed the point in your response to the letter concerning making change from the collection plate.

I recall my childhood neighbors who had nine ragtag children and not a penny to spare. Yet they attended church regularly and were embarrassed when they had nothing to put in the collection plate.

Giving should be an act of generosity rather than the result of coercion. With self-addressed envelopes handed out at the end of the service, just as much money can be collected without peer pressure. If the answer to this suggestion is, "We'll get nary a penny," then perhaps the clergy should rethink the message that they convey to their flock.

I encourage everyone to change the collection tactics at his or her place of worship so that people can give whatever they can afford, without being embarrassed.

- David Patterson,

Ramona, Calif.

For Abby's favorite family recipes, send a long, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Cookbooklet No. 1, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)