I am coming to grips with some cold, hard facts about church.
One of these facts: There will be an offering.
Another fact: No one will have any clue how offering works. Not even the pastor.
Seriously. For instance recall the many services you have attended as a guest at the church/special service. Now recall the moments leading up to the offering at these services. At that moment, you realize you have no clue how the offering is going to go down. You ponder the possibilities...
1) You realize the offering could be traditional. And by traditional, I mean 19th century. 19th century offerings are no fun. You do not have a chance for the bathroom. The offering plates will simply come to you. Just stay seated and let that little bowl full of money move it's hot self right across your lap. And all you can ponder is how in the world no one takes money out of the plate. Then you answer this question with a question: Is it a violation of the Rules of God for that Usher man at the end of the pew to be watching me put money into the bowl? Sure, he's standing there placing the fear of God in you so that you never consider ever stealing offering money. But at the same time.... he likes sees everyone man. He knows how much I give. He knows for instance that I tend to give nothing but offer a phantom offering as if I was putting offering in the plate (For appearance alone of course). The gaze of the usher men.... Me thinks that seriously may ruin the whole not letting your neighbor know how much you are giving bit from Jesus. The One advantage: No need to worry about procedure. Like a good Calvinist salvation model, everything is already done for you. Just sit there and take the bowl as it comes and pass it on.
19th century offerings: Pray against them. You will feel violated. Violated of space. Violated of bathroom opportunity. Violated of creepy usher watching me give phantom offering into bowl.
2) Scenario 2 is the most common. If you're a guest and the church goes this route....well it's like global warming. Except worse. And this really is cause for all the angst. All the sweat. All the nervous smiles that you gave up until now.. It all leads to the this moment.... The fending for yourself as head out into the great unknown of the offering march....
That's right: It's Offering March Time. And you're the guest. And you've got no clue.
First rule: I hope to God you are not in the first row. If so, good night. You mind as well just choose the guillotine at that point.
Second Rule: Observe. Take notes. Watch the order of everyone that is moving before you towards the offering plates. They are setting the precedent for you. Hopefully they aren't guests like you. Watch them close. Watch them make the whole offering order seem routine and normal and ridiculously easy....they even seem pleased with themselves... happy even. Pathetic. All of them. Know that Offering marches are not as easy as those who go before you make it seem. But from them we can learn the "gist" of the march. They will provide the pace and general direction of where to walk. Wipe the sweat off your brow. Maybe make a "whooo" sound. Act like you're not nervous.
Third Rule: Observe the worship song being played. It's always lighter and more cheery....usually "meta" even. Probably one of those corny offering songs they are used to. The reason for the "catchy" upbeat song is that offering is the one point in the service that the church can literally not afford to let the Holy Ghost take over. If the Holy Ghost takes over during offering and we all fall out.... well, the air conditioning won't be on next week. Be glad for the cheery, offering worship song.
Fourth Rule: That usher at the end of your pew is your own demise. Good Luck. Everyone hates you.
The usher will give you a right hand here pointing in a direction in front of him. As if to say "right this way my guest friend." He is pointing you to the offering path. If you choose to ignore this suggestion, he'll act like everything is fine and you can go on and sit there in the pew without partaking in the offering. He'll even smile and nod his head to give you a peace of mind. A smile that says there is no judgments. He will even move on.
Be rest assured that if you forsake the offering march, you have disturbed the entire fragile balance of our cosmic universe. If you skip the offering march and sit down instead, there will be a tsunami that will kill dozens of innocent children in Guam. Do not whatsoever, forfeit the offering march. Besides, you basically just gave up your bathroom opportunity as well.
Fifth Rule: Choose then to follow the suggestion of the usher and go on the march. Follow the person in front of you. Keep with his/her pace. If you see the girl that you are secretly in love with, do not let her know how your brain is going all haywire re: Offering procedure. Give a confident nod. A coy "i know exactly what I'm doing, thank you very much" grin to her. Do not stop for her. Lest you want to ruin the offering march and any future chance with her right then and there. You stop and you will die. Stampede. Everyone behind you will march on your corpse. Good luck.
Follow the person in front of you. There will be confusion about which kind of money should go in which offering plate. Take your single dollar. Rip it up into three pieces. Put one piece of the dollar in each plate.
Awkward: since the usher will be holding the offering plate, there really is no fear of you stealing it. This means he doesn't have to watch you give. What this does mean is that he will probably stare at you because what else can you do when you are the usher and you're trying not to see how much money someone is giving? You stand there and smile. And make things awkward. Deal with it.
Okay, now it gets insane. Option 1: Follow the person right in front of you right up onto the platform. You have no idea why you are on the platform but there's many gathered here with you and they are exceptionally bubbly today. Now once the offering ends you will slowly realize that you have joined the choir. You do not know the song they are singing. You don't know the words. You don't even know how to sing really.
All you can do at this point is pray extra hard for a Holy Ghost fall out right then and there so that no one will notice you creep off the platform real quick and on the sly. This option depends heavily on God. He may not show. The other option is dowsing yourself with the gasoline that you always carry with you for such a scenario as this one. Next: Light yourself on fire. All eyes are on you, but at least you don't have to fake like you're in the choir.
So let's say you're about your wits enough to not end up in the choir after you gave money in the offering march. Well the other option then is to figure out how to get through this rat maze of a procession. There are usually like 6 paths you could walk down. No more than 1 or 2 are correct. If you walk down the wrong path you will walk into someone. There will be bruises. Apologies will be exchanged. Because you are a guest the other person will take the blame even though it is your fault. Choose your path wisely. Hopefully you choose the correct path and somehow, through providence or intellect, you will be standing at the sink in the church bathroom looking at yourself in the mirror, cooling your face down from all the sweat you gathered.....even drying your face off.... and as you look at your hideous appearance in the mirror as if you just woke up from a nightmare, you'll notice an usher standing behind you in the reflection... The usher is staring, real creepy at you. Grinning....
And you people expect me to be funny about these things....