Churches feel the economic impact of the pandemic

Faith Time

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Reverend Jim Flowers with All Saints Episcopal in Mobile joins us to talk about how the shutdown has impacted ministry work. Here’s a look at our conversation:

Anchor: How has the pandemic affected your church financially?

Guest: There is an impact, but not what I expected. Obviously we are not receiving contributions from visitors and non-pledging members… but our congregation as a whole has continued making contributions to the church, in spite of our not being able to gather in person.

Anchor: What does that do to a ministry when funds contract like this?

Guest: One thing we are discovering is that ministry really doesn’t require money. Ministry simply requires giving oneself over to loving one’s neighbor. We have always operated under a tight budget. That’s true of most churches… but as long as we have committed people, there will be meaningful ministry.

Anchor: What does that money usually pay for?

Guest: Most of our budget is payroll; but we have a lean staff: Me, the priest, a finance administrator, and a communications director, and a building custodian. The last three are part-time positions. The rest of our budget is comprised of utilities; the maintenance of 100+-year-old buildings, and office supplies. We’re paying our bills so far, and we received a PPP loan which has helped our cash flow.

Anchor: What impact do the proliferation of online services have on donations?

Guest: Not much that I can tell. Virtual Church just isn’t the same as gathering in person. All the digital skills in the world are no substitute for the people of God gathering in the flesh. We have been posting on-line an abbreviated service each Sunday, and I have been writing reflections on the Daily Lectionary most every day… but these serve only to keep us in touch. They are no substitute for ‘real’ church.

Anchor: How can houses of worship bounce back from this?

Guest: If there is any good in this pandemic regarding the church, I think it is that people are missing something they have perhaps taken for granted. I know I am. I am told by many in our congregation that they receive nurture and a sense of purpose by worshipping, studying, and socializing as a community gathered in God’s name. We have highly committed members at All Saints. We are very much a social and economic justice church. That is to say, we feel justice and equality, and inclusion are at the heart of the Gospel. We value catholic liturgy… so we’re not for everyone, but if you’re here, you’re committed, same with other churches too.

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