by John F. Di Leo
Today’s column is not for members of “tithing parishes,” or for those who attend the kind of churches and temples that collect an annual standard pre-arranged amount from their members. Feel free to skip it and read something about politics!
Most worship communities depend on a mix of just a few types of collections to finance their operations: the regular weekly collections at Sabbath or Sunday services, the collection at a couple of high holidays, and perhaps one or two special appeals each year. By adding the proceeds of all these together, they usually just barely get by.
Churches and temples support their priests, pastors, and rabbis. They fund religious education for children, food pantries for the needy, career support for the jobless, care for the sick. They pay utilities that continue to skyrocket (imagine heating and air conditioning a room thrice as long as your house, with a thirty foot ceiling!). More likely than not, they’re still paying the bills on last year’s roof repair, on the new carpet from two years ago, on the new windows to replace the ones smashed by vandals three years ago, perhaps even on the new garage built on loans and prayers a decade ago. And they may subsidize their parish school, maybe heavily.
Most Christian parishes, unfortunately, will suffer an unusual hit to their finances this month, because of a quirk of the calendar. Both Christmas and New Year’s Day will fall on Sundays this year.
Usually, the Christmas and New Year’s collections are important bonus collections, in addition to the nearby Sunday collections. Every year, they get 52 Sundays, in which Easter stands out a bit above the rest, but Christmas is the big one. New Year’s too, is normally an opportunity to help the church make it into the black by the time the clock strikes midnight.
These two extra collections really help keep the wolf from the door for many parishes; they count on them every time.
This time, while they still get their Christmas collection, they’re losing the normal nearby Sunday. That’s quite a hit to the books.
And then, a week later comes a double hit… because even though many people view New Year’s as a great day to go to church and thank the good Lord for the year past, and ask for blessings on the year to come… the fact is that many people don’t attend on New Year’s. It may be a solemnity (a special Holy day, on which attendance is required) for Catholics, but it’s optional for most. So turnout is usually down on New Year’s, regardless of what day it falls on.
This makes New Year’s Day’s arrival on a Sunday doubly painful: not only are they losing an extra collection, but in addition, the nature of New Year’s Day likely keeps many people home who would have attended a normal Sunday service. Far from an extra collection that might be merely tepid, this New Year’s collection will likely be a heavily suppressed Sunday. After all, on the day after staying up late for New Year’s Eve, even non-drinkers may find it a challenge to resist the temptation to sleep in!
So this is just a simple reminder, on behalf of your place of worship. Far from the usual extra collections this month, many churches will suffer a considerable reduction in their collections, with the loss of two Sundays, despite the addition of Christmas.
If your parish deserves it, as most certainly do, please be generous when that basket comes round, over the next couple of weeks. You probably need the tax deduction anyway, and by losing two of the month’s four Sundays, your parish certainly needs the support. If you’re in a position to be generous, in this age of unemployment, underemployment, and general career frustration, then by all means, help make up for this unkind robbery of Sundays from your parish.
If only it were a human villain at the heart of it; at least we could put a robber in jail. But we can’t jail the calendar. We just have to try to help make up for it with our checkbooks, if we can. Just as these are hard times for so many of us, they’re hard times for our parishes as well, every few years when this particular issue rolls around.
Copyright 2011 John F. Di Leo
John F. Di Leo is a Customs broker and Chicago-based international trade lecturer.
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