Across the country, churches are closed as large gatherings are now banned in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. And with those empty pews comes a bigger problem for those churches’ leaders: empty offering plates. As The Associated Press reports, some churches are unlikely to survive this pandemic.
In Baltimore, last Sunday the Rev. Alvin Gwynn Sr. held services as usual, despite the nationwide trend of other congregations closing their doors. Still, attendance was down by about 50 percent, and the offering plates, which normally bring in about $15,000, brought in closer to $5,000.
That money isn’t just used to pay salaries and keep the lights on. The church, like many others, provides outreach to the community. And when collections dry up, those will be the first things to go.
“It cuts into our ministry. If this keeps up, we can’t fund all our outreach to help other people,” he said.
It’s not just the lack of parishioners in the pews that is causing financial hardships for churches. Many congregations, or the organizations that manage groups of churches, have means of income beyond just the collection baskets, such as renting space to daycare centers or stock holdings.
Of course, the stock market has been in a tailspin of late, greatly reducing the value of those stock portfolios. And as for daycare, since grouping children together in the same building is now off the table until further notice, those organizations aren’t collecting rent.
In New York City, Bishop Paul Egensteiner of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s Metropolitan New York Synod, said that many of the 190 congregations his organization manages won’t survive the pandemic, though he didn’t give a specific number.
“As much as I’d like to help them, everybody’s reserves are taking a hit because of the stock market,” he said.
As previously reported by The Inquisitr, many churches are moving online, broadcasting their services over the internet to congregants at home, with mixed results. Larger, wealthier congregations already have such systems in place for years, while smaller ones have been playing it by ear.
Pastor Donna Giver-Johnston preaches to a mostly empty sanctuary today at Community Presbyterian Church of Ben Avon, which temporarily moved to livestream-only services to protect the community in this time of COVID-19. Her husband Brian listens from a pew. pic.twitter.com/k3icjmZ5VZ— Steve Mellon (@stevemellon412) March 15, 2020
Regardless, congregants at home aren’t putting money in the offering plates. So, some congregations have turned instead to online giving.
In Kansas City, the Church of the Resurrection, a United Methodist congregation with satellite locations across the region, said that people from all over the country logged in for last Sunday’s streaming worship service. Unfortunately, it looks as if the spike in attendance, virtual though it was, didn’t result in a spike in donations. Although Cathy Bien, the church’s communications director, said that employees are still processing checks and credit card donations.
In Springfield, Massachusetts, the Roman Catholic archdiocese is less concerned about dwindling donations and more concerned about the spiritual effects the COVID-19 pandemic is having on parishioners.
“Lack of access to the churches and Eucharist is particularly difficult for many older parishioners whose entire daily routine is built around getting up, out of the house, and going to Mass,” said the Rev. Mark Stelzer, a spokesperson for the diocese.