BUHL, Idaho (AP) She sat on a chair in front of the all-black Baptist congregation. After the full collection plates were gathered, an usher would bring them to her.
"She'd look at the plates and say, 'Unh-unh,'" recalled the Rev. Jerry Peters, pastor of the Buhl United Methodist Church, of a service he attended years ago in another state. "So they'd go around again and she'd have another look. 'Unh-unh,' she'd say, and they'd go another round.
"Finally, when she thought the collection plates were full enough, she shouted, 'Praise the Lord!'"
In Christian churches, there's more than one way to pass the plate.
The Offertory a formal part of both Roman Catholic and Episcopal services takes place in most churches every Sunday morning.
"It hasn't changed much since I was a kid," said the Rev. Rodney Woodcock, pastor of the Jerome Baptist Church.
But traditions vary widely.
"We don't collect tithes as part of our services," said Grant Maughan, spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Twin Falls area. "But there are envelopes in the church for people to give money for missions or other purposes."
Mormons are asked to give 10 percent of their income, but it doesn't go into a collection plate, he said.
At Twin Falls' Immanuel Lutheran Church, alms are given by personal check or through Internet-based bank transfers. But some congregants do tithe via the collection plate, said the Rev. Lawrence Vedder, the church's pastor.
"It's a mixed bag," he said.
In Catholic churches, the Offertory is a formal part of the Communion service to be spoken or sung during the collection of alms.
Because of that, the Offertory is also a tradition in religious and classical music, usually an instrumental piece played by the organist or a hymn sung by the choir while the tithes are being gathered.
In most Protestant congregations, the Offertory is also an integral part of the Sunday service, also accompanied by music.
"Two couples will collect the offerings and bring them to the front of the church, where the plates remain for the rest of the service," Vedder said.
An offering is also gathered in religious education classes for children at Immanuel, then taken to the Sunday service and placed along with the adults' donations in the collection plates.
"It gets the kids involved in the process without our having to collect their contributions too during the service," he said.
Collection plates or baskets range from ornate to ordinary.
"We have a variety, just different ones that we've added over the years," Woodcock said.
"We've used our collection plates for a long time," Vedder said. "They even went through the fire."
An arson-caused blaze burned part of Immanuel just before Christmas in 2000.
"But the plates themselves don't have any special significance," he said.
Peters said the offering is one of the principal reasons that Christians gather to worship.
"It's a time to offer our very best gifts, as God has offered his very best gifts to us."