Suffolk churches to trial contactless and cashless payments in bid to halt declining donations
- Credit: Gregg Brown
Suffolk churches are embracing the cashless revolution in a bid to halt declining donations, with contactless and card payments being trialed.
Four Suffolk churches, including St Edmundsbury Cathedral in Bury St Edmunds, are set to take part in a national Church of England trial later this year.
The move is in a response to the soaring numbers of people using contactless payments, which can be made by just tapping a card or phone on a reader.
“The days of passing around the collection plate date to when people were paid their wages in cash,” said the Reverend Cannon Graham Hedger, who is responsible for generous giving across the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich.
“A lot of people don’t carry cash on them anymore.
“Anecdotally we are hearing that donations are declining and people want to make payments by card.
“I don’t think it is a sign people are any less generous, I just think they don’t have the opportunity to donate.”
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He said while regular congregations largely give by standing orders and direct debits, the move to a cashless world has hit the income from occasional visitors.
“It is the tourists, or guests at weddings, funerals and baptisms. There are lots of people who don’t carry cash but want to make a contribution.
“I was told by one parish priest who had held a baptism, the collection plate went round and there was only about £5 in donations – then he had everyone coming up to him holding out phones and cards saying ‘how do I pay?’”
The churches taking part are St Mary’s in Bury, the Bury cathedral, St Mary’s at Woodbridge and the Church of St Edmund in Assington, near Sudbury.
“We have two large town churches, the cathedral and a small parish church,” said Mr Hedger. “It is more than the Norwich and Ely dioceses put together.”
St Edmundsbury Cathedral has had to make several cuts in recent months, after revealing it is facing a £60,000 deficit. Last year saw an additional 9,000 visitors to the cathedral, yet astonishingly the amount received in donations dropped by nearly £10,000.
In 2016 the Suffolk diocese had an income of £16million from all sources, including donations.