Every Sunday, in most churches, a common ritual takes place: ushers “pass the plate”, money is collected, counted, recorded, and deposited in a safe place.
One Sunday morning, as my wife and I sat in the eleven o’clock service, the last for the day, an usher asked my wife if she would be willing to count the offering after the service. She was Senior Warden. As the highest lay officer in the Church she was a natural choice and readily agreed. Being the most obvious available helper she drafted me as her assistant.
After the closing hymn, we repaired to a small office next to the sanctuary. On a table in the center of the room were proceeds from the three morning services including the one we just left. There were bills, checks, and a few coins.
Our first job was to count the cash. It started with organizing the bills by their denomination and arriving at a total. Checks were stacked, and each amount was recorded toward a pledge listed in a separate book. The coins were not sorted. This would be done at the bank.
Our plan was to collect our daughters who were finishing a Sunday School project and then pick up our sitter on the way home. She would be with the girls for four days while my wife and I were in Chicago where I would be attending a professional meeting.
Our final duty according to the instructions was to put the money in a large canvas bank bag. It was about fourteen-inches-square and closed with a stout zipper. We were to place the bag in the “night depository” at the branch bank just two blocks away.
At the bank, eager to be done with the task, I used a special key to unlock the pullout chute that was available for bulky items. After putting the key in the bag I dropped it in the chute recording a mental picture of what I had done. I knew what my wife would say.
Back at the car she asked, “Are you sure you put it in?”
I said, “Yes.”
Our job was done.
Two days later, we received a call at our hotel in Chicago. It was from the church secretary. She told us that the bank bag was missing. “Impossible,” I said. “I put it in.”
“But it’s not there,” replied the secretary. She apologized for bothering us but said the Church office was worried about the loss of the bag.
Of course, they were, I thought. There was nearly one thousand dollars in cash and there were checks for much more. They would have to be re-issued, causing a lot of unnecessary inconvenience.
Then my wife started. “Are you absolutely sure?” she asked me.
“Of course,” I said. “You were just a few feet away in the car, watching me.” But at the same time, I was questioning myself. Could this be?
She believed me, but for the next three days, we talked about little else and I made three calls to the Church only to hear the bag had not been found.
When we returned home on Thursday, after four days of worrying, I called the Church office to see if they had any news.
“Nothing new, we’ve given up,” said the secretary. “The bag was old anyway, so we bought a new one.”
“What about the money?!” I asked.
“Oh, that was OK, they just lost the bag,” she calmly answered.