THE search for cash as the collection plate approaches might become a thing of the past, should a pilot to introduce contactless card-payment machines in churches take off.
About 40 congregations in the Church of England are to be equipped with handheld terminals to process contactless card payments up to the value of £30, from next month. These are to be handed round with the collection plate during services, and made available for the retiring collection, so that people can donate more easily.
The move is part of a wider desire to push the Church into the 21st century, the National Stewardship Officer, John Preston, says.
“Cheques, standing orders, and cash are going out of fashion, but that is squarely where the Church is at present. We are trying to enable people to give in more modern ways that suit them — though we are not going to stop people from giving as they are currently, and may prefer.”
This includes increasing online giving, and promoting the Parish Giving Scheme (PGS), a direct-debit system currently used by 16 dioceses. Users of the PGS can now choose to increase their donations in line with inflation, or donate anonymously.
Introducing “tap-and-go” donations would appeal more to young people and congregations at special services, such as weddings, funerals, and baptisms, as well as tourists who are visiting, Mr Preston says, although he does not predict that overall giving would increase significantly. The terminals might also be used to receive payments for space hire, or wedding fees.
To save time, churchgoers will be asked to select from three common donations pre-listed on the terminal (for example, £3, £5, and £10), which will vary according to individual churches and services. Users can request to donate a different amount by selecting “other”. Receipts will be printed at the request of the card holder. The pilot will run until the end of next year to cover Harvest and Christmas.