By The Rev’d Charlie Lacey:
At various times and in various places the Church has survived plague, famine, war, persecution and social, political and economic turmoil. Indeed, the Church often flourishes in, or emerges stronger from, conditions of adversity and hardship.
The Church is the visible sign of God’s kingdom on earth. Nevertheless, in times of uncertainty and turmoil it is understandable that many Christians, especially clergy, might experience a certain degree of anxiety about the longevity of their congregations. The effects of the current global coronavirus situation are not only physical, but also fiscal. Many businesses and institutions will face serious financial challenges and our churches are not immune to this.
Most churches receive a significant proportion of their income from monies collected during the offering, which are used to cover stipends, staff wages and building upkeep. These costs continue for churches even though brick and mortar buildings have closed, as church ministry has instead shifted online or is being provided via other means. This is why our clergy and parish leaders need us to continue contributing.
I was tremendously encouraged when, in response to the present situation, members of my own congregation recently approached me to find out how they might give electronically in lieu of the collection plate. I believe that their desire to keep giving was inspired by the Holy Spirit, who continually encourages us to surrender every area of our lives to Jesus. If you feel prompted to attend to the financial aspect of your discipleship, there are excellent systems in place to support you. For example, you can make a regular bank transfer to your parish via Parish Direct. It is easy to set up, totally secure and you may choose to give anonymously if preferred. Many parishes also provide other alternatives besides the collection plate and Parish Direct, which you may like to investigate.
There is no doubt that being mindful of parish finances, pro-active and generous will take a certain amount of pressure off the clergy. However, please do not give simply because you want to support your parish priest. Give because you love Jesus and because you want to help sustain the life and mission of the Church. Give because generosity is an essential Christian discipline that produces a more Christ-like character in the giver.
Christians are to give to the Lord’s work with an attitude of joy (2 Corinthians 9.7) and gratitude, remembering that every good thing we have is a gift from God (James 1.17). In essence, we are only giving back to God that which is already his. However, no-one is being asked to place themselves in financial difficulty as a result of their giving. Each one of us can only give according to our means (2 Corinthians 8.10-12).
The effects of the coronavirus are creating all kinds of challenges, but let us rise up and meet them together, so that the Church as a whole might come through this period stronger than ever. During times of darkness and difficulty, the Holy Spirit seems to have more purchase on the hearts and minds of the faithful. That is, I believe, why the worldwide Church has continued to grow against all the odds.