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From the Back Pew: Collection plate, zero to $100

September 08, 2010|By Michael J. Arvizu

Each Sunday, Christians around the world are confronted with an important question: How much do I put into the collection plate?

And will it be too much or too little? What if I am down on my luck and not able to afford my weekly tithe? What then?

Churches have been collecting tithes since ancient times. The Vatican, during medieval times, collected taxes on the land people owned and had immense wealth, not to mention power. Taxes were due at certain times throughout the year. It's safe to say that it was mandatory that money be given to the church, with punishment severe if the deadline was not met.

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In a time before state governments, funds were usually distributed to the poor and used for the upkeep of temples, feeding of priests and as community resources, according to the Rev. Amy Pringle, rector of St. George's Episcopal Church in La Cañada Flintridge

Today, giving money to the church is completely voluntary. You can give zero dollars, or you can give $100. The standard is usually 10% of income, said Pringle. For Skip Lindeman, pastor of La Cañada Congregational Church, this figure represents a percentage of gross income. I've seen people give their usual dollar; others may give a little more. And I've seen some church-goers with the audacity to ask for change out of the collection basket ("Can you break a 20?"). I usually make it a point to give something whenever I attend services while travelling and visiting other churches.

So where does the money you put into the collection plate go each Sunday?

Churches can have numerous ministries that help the less fortunate. They may hold second collections for the benefit of city-, nation- or even worldwide charitable organizations. In a time of state and local governments, however, community resources are usually paid for using your tax dollars, and churches, regardless of denomination, are left on their own to come up with the funds to keep them afloat, Pringle said.

"The majority of the moneys collected provide for the administration, maintenance and all of the programs offered by the church," said the Rev. Richard Albarano, pastor of St. Francis Xavier Church in Burbank. "Ten to 15% goes directly to the poor and to what we call our Family Rescue Fund."

Maintaining the fabric of the church is typically where the money goes, said Lindeman. That includes paying employees' salaries.

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