Saturday, December 4, 2010

Welcome to our church. Insert card here.

St Bride's, Fleet Street, in the City of London, has installed a "Donorpoint" machine. [source: Church Times] This device is exactly what you're thinking: a reverse cashpoint, stick your card in and it takes money off you. No more fobbing off your loose change on the collection: credit cards please (although I don't know if there's a minimum amount).

It would very easy to satirise this, and Always Hope will rise above the temptation (on this occasion), apart from noting in passing that it is our Cathedrals that have led the way in pioneering the Donorpoint, and registering some curiosity that the MD of the company that makes the things is also a parish priest (I suppose he must be non-stipendiary).

In fact the Donorpoint raises a serious issue: how the parish churches are to be funded. To the many who will fume about how disgraceful it is that a church should take money in this way, the obvious response is: "how would you go about funding the maintenance and mission of this ancient building in the heart of London?". There is a species of wishful thinking that allows a lot of people to imagine that a church can continue to exist indefinitely without ever raising the sordid question of money.

How do we fund a parish church, paying for the ongoing maintenance of these wonderful and inefficient buildings, as well funding the enormous variety of work that is based in them? Thousands of churches, often huge in size (and equally often inhabited by tiny congregations) somehow manage to keep open year after year and even to do amazing things in their communities. It is a miracle how few of our parish churches have had to close, but the pace of closure is quietly accelerating. St Bride's may have the advantage of a city centre location, but an enterprising approach to fundraising ought to be on every church's agenda.

Hmm. I wonder how you get one of those Donorpoints...

5 comments:

Lesley said...

lol. seems reasonable to me...

I just misread your profile - thinking you were vicar of IKEA church - I went off on a wonderful soft furnishings church fantasy - can you imagine the altar with IKEA pots on it, and the hymn books in orange and green squares on the wall? Mmmm....

cymraeg said...

Oh how I agree. Our own lovely St. Mary's in Aylesbury has the same huge hungry church building and a small loyal but not very affluent congregation.
Perhaps a note of humour could be introduced along with the Mendicant begging bowl machine, -an outstretched hand (palm up) to take the card perhaps.

The Church Mouse said...

You can get one here http://www.donorpoint.co.uk/

They're actually quite common in other contexts, it's just that churches have never gone there before.

The Church Mouse said...

Actually, the website says that there are 2 at Chichester Cathedral - so there you go!

MisterDavid said...

My church in New Zealand used this method of taking up an offering - and, against all my instinctive misgivings, the system worked really well, because people just don't carry cash a whole lot any more. Plus, people gave MORE than otherwise because they could type in any number they wanted (like tipping in restaurants with a card rather than cash).

I used it, whilst hating it and lamenting the fact that we no longer have velvet bags of golden coins dangling at our waists.

Chip and pin offerings are, excitingly, only a small step away from churches permanently being in possession of members' bank details (and able to 'discipline' the congregation with them).