Sunday, May 19, 2013

Liturgy Question for the New Monetary Era

My parish, like many others, has made arrangements to allow parishioners to pay their pledges on-line. So I was intrigued to find, in the pews of a Lutheran church where I was hearing a concert, a stack of little laminated cards, to be put in the offering plate as tokens for the donations made on-line. Along with text explaining this purpose, the card bore a QR code which if used with a smart phone would take the user to the parish's on-line giving page. Any comments on this?


Douglas LeBlanc said...

I’m torn. I like PayPal, electronic debits, or any other tool that helps people support their parishes consistently. These days I write only a few checks per month, and most of those are for my parish -- only because the parish has not made this step into online giving.

But as the Lutheran parish recognizes, electronic giving can create an awkward moment for a parishioner as the offering plate passes by, week after week. Would anything important be lost if parishes designated a table in the narthex where members leave their offerings before the service begins?

The prayer book offers this simple instruction: “Representatives of the congregation bring the people’s offerings of bread and wine, and money or other gifts, to the deacon or celebrant. The people stand while the offerings are presented and placed on the Altar.”

I find the QR Code troubling if it prompts worshipers to visit the link during the service. Our culture gives enough totemic power to smartphones and tablets without the church trying to incorporate gimmicks like live-tweeting responses to sermons or replacing an organist with digital music and a DJ. The better place for a QR Code probably is a stewardship flier. Or the parish could create a memorable shortcut that it mentions in the weekly worship bulletin.

AAK said...

In the church in which I was raised (this is in the 1990s... not all that long ago), the head of the altar guild would write a cheque to the church at the beginning of each month for the value of 1/12 of her pledge. On the other Sundays, she put a dollar or two in the remaining pledge envelopes so that she would have something for the plate as it passed.

In my mother's estimation, placing the envelope into the plate is as much about honoring one's fiduciary commitment as it is about setting an example.

This is a difficult idea to suggest to those who don't already see the logic, especially in these times when "setting an example" might seem a snobbish idea. But if we believe that a large part of church life consists or ought to consist in welcoming newcomers, what better message could we laymen send about our role as stewards of the parish than by demonstrating, each week, our commitment to sustaining it materially?

I like the idea of the laminated cards for the same reason. It provides a way for those who honor their pledge electronically to show—both to others and to themselves—their participation in the financial support of the church, and it gives to those e-pledgers a firm, tactile,liturgical connection to the act of giving.

In my mother’s words: “It’s important to set an example. That’s why you put the envelope into the plate. It’s not so you feel good about yourself. Giving begets giving.”

I do, however, echo the above wariness of the QR code, for all of the above reasons. Smartphones are just another distraction, and it is they that ought to be left on a designated table in the narthex.

C. Wingate said...

I see the point about the distraction, but on the other hand there's usually plenty of dead time during the announcements.

The Underground Pewster said...

A while back, we had someone with sticky fingers handling the plate offering. Pledging and paying by draft was a comfort at the time.

David Donnell said...

I could cheerfully do without the every-Sunday "passing the plate" thing, which wasn't even invented until the late 19th century.

If we'd just restore the "poore mennes box" to the narthex, so that people could deposit their offerings as they enter the church, its contents could be brought forward with the bread and wine, as the rubric directs. No plates would need to be passed at all, and people might actually be able to pay attention to the text of the Offertory anthem, rather than having to drag out their wallets and fumble in their purses.

In my own parish -- very small, no choir -- the people are expected to be holding up hymnals and joining in the offertory hymn at the same time they're looking for the cash, envelope or whatever. It doesn't make for very hearty singing!

As for inventing *NEW* things to drop into the plate -- oy, who needs it? Just more waste paper (and waste plastic, if they're laminated), in my not-so-humble opinion.