If nearly every congregation — large and small — can find a way to worship online, it stands to reason that relief sales can collect donations in similar fashion.
Some already do. Events such as those supporting Mennonite Central Committee in New Hamburg, Ont., Elkhart, Ind., and Wooster, Ohio, show that online auctions pioneered by ebay more than two decades ago can increase bids almost as well as fast talkers in cowboy hats. If someone can bid on an antique tractor over the phone, why not a computer?
What may be helpful for sales that still find the prospect daunting would be if some sort of central committee could share a basic website framework that sales could plug into the websites they already operate.
Every relief sale has rich traditions that should continue when this pandemic runs its course. MCC understands each event is locally owned, and it makes sense to give each the breathing room it needs. But sometimes it also makes sense to share expertise. How much less meat would be canned if MCC did not operate a mobile canner staffed by a team of experts? There is no reason for every local relief sale to reinvent the wheel in order to move into the 21st century of donation generation.
This is a time to do things in new ways — a time of apocalypse, says Paul Milbank, Channel Islands (U.K.) representative, in an Anabaptist Mennonite Network blog post. He admits “apocalypse” sounds extreme to modern ears, but that’s because we’ve disconnected the word from its biblical roots. “An apocalypse is a moment of uncovering,” he says. “A moment when the fog of constructed and managed reality lifts and we can see the world in a new light. It does have a note of the catastrophic, but it’s also a moment of awakening — the birth of a new way of seeing.”
Some sales have come through a minor apocalypse with websites that let people far and wide support MCC. There is no better time than the present for other sales to do likewise.