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Church of England goes cashless for worshippers’ contributions

The Rev. Martyn Taylor uses a SumUp contactless payment reader for donations at Christ Church in Stamford, UK. Photo courtesy of SumUp

The Rev. Martyn Taylor uses a SumUp contactless payment reader for donations at Christ Church in Stamford, U.K. Photo courtesy of SumUp

LONDON (RNS) — Like the widow offering small coins at the Temple in Luke’s Gospel, Christians have long been encouraged to not only pray but also make a financial contribution at their place of worship.

The Church of England has now decided to make their financial transactions easier. Instead of expecting people to rummage for a few coins or bills, it plans to introduce cashless, contactless payments in its 16,000 churches and cathedrals.

The payment machines will first be used for funeral fees, wedding notices or even to buy a coffee after the service. Later, people will also be able to make their weekly offering with the machines.

After a trial carried out in 40 Anglican churches since last year, the contactless plan will be used in all dioceses. The idea took root because declining numbers of people use cash nowadays.

“There is a clear need for our parishes to introduce card and contactless facilities and we are excited to make this available,” said John Preston, the Church of England’s national stewardship officer.

“How we pay for things is changing fast, especially for younger churchgoers who no longer carry cash, and we want all generations to be able to make the most of their place of worship.

“Installing this technology does mean that one-off fees can be done via card, as can making one-off donations.“

Contactless payment, also known as “tap-and-go,” is barely known in America, but its speed and convenience has made the technology very popular across Europe, where it has been widely adopted.

One British church keen to embrace the new technology is Holy Nativity in Mixenden, on the outskirts of Halifax in West Yorkshire. Its vicar, the Rev. Robb Sutherland, who already has a terminal, said:

The Rev. Robb Sutherland, of Holy Nativity Church in West Yorkshire, England, with a contactless payment machine. Photo courtesy of the Rev. Robb Sutherland

“The world has changed. When I was a student and going to church in Newcastle, I commented to my now wife that I didn’t have any cash and the church needed a card machine. That’s 20 years ago. Now in 2018, I just bought my lunch using my watch for contactless. It is important that we’re able to enable people to do their giving in whatever way feels best for them.

“It was so easy to set up, literally took me three minutes and even someone with no technical knowledge could have it up and running in 10 minutes.”

Holy Nativity has a Rock Mass on the third Sunday every month, complete with a live rock band, smoke and lights, processions and incense.

“I can see that congregation being really up for trying something new,” Sutherland said. “The Rock Mass does tend to have a lot of people who only come to church for that service because it has its own distinctive community. I guess that is the nature of a fresh expression of church.”

Now he is working out ways of making contactless payment always available at the back of the church for special events such as baptisms and other large services.

A special reader that can be passed around for the collection during church services will be tested out soon in the Church of England.

Although some churches will welcome it, others think it is not for them because the amount of cash they take in is so small that buying the contactless system and running it will not be worthwhile.

The Church of England receives around 580 million pounds ($820 million) in donations each year, mostly through regular contributions.

The Rev. Matthew Cashmore, based at All Saints Church in Hereford near the border with Wales, said: “We decided not to do it because of the cost and most of our collection comes through standing orders.”

Others say it will help with another problem for rural churches: the growing shortage of banks.

Simon Sarmiento, who runs the Thinking Anglicans website, said the problem was usually not the volume of cash a church has to handle, but the logistics of dealing with it in town centers with limited parking.

“It’s the continual closure of bank branches in smaller towns, so that there’s a longer distance to go to make the actual cash deposits into a bank,” he said. “Who wants to have to carry cash — and I’m talking in part about metal money — three miles to a place where you can’t park outside the door?”

About the author

Catherine Pepinster

18 Comments

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  • I think that money loses it’s value when all we do is tap a machine,or run a card. We forget that a $5.00 bill looks like this and won’t be there any more because the reality of that is lost by swiping a card.
    Also, this gives too many people access to your accounts

  • “…….we want all generations to be able to make the most of their place of worship.”

    Semi-immoral mealy-mouthed marketing-speak for ” we want all generations to be able to pay the most to their place of worship”?

    Never forget that the Church of England is a business that eats money. This business has the problem (as with many other established retail businesses) of too much property which requires expensive maintenance, too many staff to service a decreasing (and ageing) clientele, previously unknown alternative sources of supply and potential customers who are better able to question the validity of their product.

    Does this mean the CofE is poor – well – their begging letters imply it. We recently had a begging note included with our regular village newsletter (aka the church magazine paid for by advertisers; though the largest – yup – the church – generally occupies 6 sides but voluntarily contributes little more than everyone else pays for a single side). The appeal claimed, without justification, that the church has value to everyone in the village and therefore we should all support its failing mission.
    However –
    The head of the Church of England’s investment arm has flagged that its £7.9 billion fund will fail to match the stellar returns logged in 2016, but said ethical policies were not to blame.
    While the fund managed to rake in a bumper 17.1% return on the back of a strong performance in equities in 2016, it sold down its stock holdings by around 17% or £500 million to help re-balance the portfolio during the same year, meaning a smaller boost from a further rise in stock prices is expected from 2017.” (Belfast Telegraph).

    If that’s poverty I’m in!

  • I just recently read an article on the CoE and some incredible amount of money they had invested. It may be the one you are discussing.
    The CoE has fallen so far from Christ that it is very sad and questionable if they should be calling themselves “Christian”
    Romans 1:28 – And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

  • Try surveying anyone under 30 to see how many write cheques regularly for anything or how much cash they normally carry.

  • “We accept all denominations. Tens and twenties are our favorite”
    -Henry Gibson Laugh-In.

  • I know. But I’m sure you are of the generation where you hated to break a 20 because it was then gone. You knew physical value of money. That generation will not.

  • Probably used more than once – my (earlier?) record says “My church welcomes all denominations, but my favourite is the five dollar bill”

  • Here you go, sister Catherine Pepinster – my answer to your pop-quiz:

    TRUE OR FALSE: “Like the widow offering small coins at the Temple in Luke’s Gospel, Christians … make a financial contribution at their place of worship … with a contactless payment machine.”

    FALSE. What Luke 21:1-4 says, rather, is: “Jesus looked up and saw THE RICH putting their gifts into the [temple] treasury. And He saw A POOR WIDOW putting in two small copper coins. And He said, ‘Truly I say to you, THIS POOR WIDOW put in more than ALL THE RICH; for they all out of their SURPLUS put into the offering; but she out of her POVERTY put in all that she had lived on.'” SO, can this wachamakolit, this “contactless payment machine”, do all that? No, right? It’s too carnal, materialistic, capitalistic & dumb to differentiate, compare & choose between (A) a true & lively Christian offering that’s of spiritual worth because it has been milked & drained “out of … POVERTY”; and (B) a false & lifeless Christian offering that’s of no spiritual worth because it has been pro-rated & skimmed from the obscene & filthy SURPLUSES of the capitalistic corporate industry. If anything, this “contactless payment machine” is yet another spoon & fork (or silvery chopstick) feeding the belly of Mammon, the demon of wealth.

  • Are you a cyber-bully? Why ID yourself as a “Moderator”? Pick on me, otherwise. I do bite.

  • I was gonna say the proverbial, I don’t bite. But you’re right; I do bite back at the Early Church Wolves I mean Fathers.

    So wolf, wolf, to you, too, then. Grrr …

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