Empty bell bags in churches at Christmas

D.he churches come up with a lot to be able to celebrate Christmas Eve during the Corona period. In a small Taunus village, the Protestant community invites you to the soccer field. Elsewhere, believers switch to riding arenas or drive-in cinemas. Wherever there is a celebration in the church, significantly fewer believers are allowed to come than usual. It will probably be a much quieter Christmas than usual. That should also be noticeable in the bell bags of the congregations, which usually do not fill up on any other occasion as well as on Christmas Eve.

“We are already expecting high losses in the collection,” said the spokesman for the Evangelical Church in Hesse and Nassau (EKHN), Pastor Volker Rahn, to the F.A.Z. “Many people simply prefer to just put their money in the bell bag at the church exit.” Digital alternatives such as a donation button that congregations can set up on their websites have not yet achieved the desired success, says Rahn. People in the Archdiocese of Cologne are also skeptical: “Certainly, a far lower amount of donations must be assumed because not all donors transfer the amount online instead,” wrote a spokeswoman when asked by the F.A.Z.

Most important income item

Traditionally, the two large churches in Germany collect on Christmas Eve for “Bread for the World” (Protestant) and Adveniat (Catholic) and thus give the two aid organizations one of their largest income every year. A year ago, Adveniat raised almost 23.4 million euros in the Catholic Christmas services – around half of the total income. In the case of Bread for the World, it was around half of the 64.4 million euros raised in 2019 through donations and collections. This year it should be significantly less. Adveniat expects “a slump in the double-digit million range”, as a spokeswoman for the AFP news agency said.

When the new corona restrictions were announced in mid-December, the two aid organizations, together with the heads of the two large churches in Germany, called for new forms of donation. “This year the collection is particularly important, precisely because Corona hits the poorest in the world particularly hard,” said the Chairman of the Council of the Evangelical Church, Heinrich Bedford-Strohm. In addition to the previous donation options, Bread for the World and Adveniat now offer different options for online donations, for example via a QR code. Many church letters come with a payment slip. For the first time, the two aid organizations jointly set up an ecumenical website: Especially for the elderly, however, a classic method could also come back into fashion, the donation bag, which can be handed in in the same way as for example in the community office.

“Many projects came out empty-handed.”

Early on in the pandemic, the EKHN tried to collect the gifts that were missing from the church services online by setting up a digital donation button that the congregations can integrate on their websites. But many churches had difficulties with the technology. “At the beginning of the pandemic, some projects went completely empty,” says Rahn.

The EKHN is now considering whether it will at least compensate the large institutions such as Diakonie or Bread for the World for the lost collection income from the other church funds. In the event of appeals for donations for these institutions, even on normal Sundays, 50,000 to 100,000 euros would often be collected, which is now missing. On the other hand, collections for local church projects are usually only a plus. Their existence is not endangered by the losses, says Rahn.

One thing is very important for the pastor to emphasize: “The collection is a minor problem for the parishes this year. Much more important is the question of how we can provide pastoral care in these times too. “


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