Churches drawing tourists, like Crowland Abbey, could be among the first in South Holland to offer contactless payments so visitors can donate with cards, phones or watches.
But some South Holland clergy are reluctant to have their own congregations make contactless payments in the pews during services, despite the Diocese of Lincoln offering two card reader models on its parish buying website.
The Rev Charles Brown, priest-in-charge at the abbey, said any decision to install card readers rests with his church council but he thinks there may be an opportunity to make it easier for tourists to donate towards the upkeep of the church.
Mr Brown said: “I would imagine it would be for our visitors to use rather than during services.
“I think a lot of people (attending services) would prefer to put their money in the plate as opposed to just doing the contactless thing ... contactless is a bit soulless, isn’t it, particularly in the context of a worship service?”
Mr Brown says it’s a special moment when the congregation make their monetary offering to God and the collection is carried up to him.
“I must say I would hate to lose that,” said Mr Brown. “There is something about the symbolism of the plate coming up, as people’s offering to God, which is important.”
The Rev Rosamund Seal, vicar at All Saints’ Church, Holbeach, says churches are maintained by their communities, mostly by congregations, and there’s no “magic Church pot” to help out.
She believes contactless payments will work best in cathedrals and larger churches that have a lot of visitors, although she could envisage card readers being useful at Christmas time when many more people come to the church in Holbeach.
Mrs Seal said: “It may be something we look at in the future but Holbeach is a very traditional community and it takes a long while to catch up with new ideas.”
At the end of weddings and funerals, Mrs Seal reminds those attending about the “very large plate” waiting for their donations if they want to keep the building open for future weddings and funerals.
The Vicar of Spalding, the Rev John Bennett, said: “I think it’s certainly worth exploring when people come for the occasional service like weddings or baptisms and don’t seem to bring any money with them or they don’t put any money into the plate at the back of the church.”
He says it costs about £120 just to get St Mary and St Nicolas warm enough to hold a wedding or a funeral.
Father Jonathan Sibley fears some people may regard card readers as gimmicky.
He said: “I know some churches in America do this but that’s America for you. I think, pastorally, it would be a detrimental move.”
The Rev Ian Walters, from St Peter and St Paul’s in Gosberton, said: “I am definitely not resistant to it (contactless payments) at all and I think it’s going to come in.”
He believes contactless will be most useful at this stage for special events, such as the flower festival, and concerts but it will take much longer to come in at smaller churches for services.
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