Massachusetts Churches Feeling Financial Hit From Coronavirus Emergency

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Just about every Christian church in Massachusetts was shut down for two months as a result of the coronavirus emergency, and it is having a negative impact on them financially.

For many churches in Massachusetts, the last Sunday service they held was on March 15. That means they missed out on having an in-person service on Palm Sunday and Easter — which took place on April 5 and April 12 this year. Typically, those are two of the most-attended church days of the year.

Some church members make weekly or monthly contributions online, but many put cash or a check or envelope into a collection basket or collection plate on Sundays — which hasn’t happened in 67 days.

During an in-person service in April, Pastor Kris Casey of Adams Square Baptist Church in Worcester told the church attendees that collections were down 40 percent.

Beth DiCoccio, a spokesman for the New England Conference of The United Methodist Church, said the coronavirus shutdown negatively affected the denomination’s 590 New England churches. However, she also noted there are other causes in need of financial support.

“Not being able to gather in person for worship has meant a decrease in offerings for many of our churches; that is a trend seen across the denomination,” she told New Boston Post in an email message last month. “At the same time, people have been tremendously generous in supporting their communities through church food pantries and other outreach ministries, which are so vital for so many right now.”

As for Catholic churches, John Kearns, a spokesman for the Diocese of Fall River, said the diocese is taking steps to help their local parishes such as forgiving assessment charges for April, deferring monthly billing, creating a Diocesan Emergency Grant Fund, and implementing online offertory programs.

“Financial shortfalls are affecting not only parish operations but also diocesan ministries as well,” Kearns told New Boston Post in an email message last month. “The pandemic is postponing critical fundraising including a delay of our annual Catholic Appeal that provides support for agencies like Catholic Social Services whose outreach is needed now more than ever.”

“Along with their prayers for the sick and suffering, we ask parishioners who are able to please offer regular offertory support of their parish either electronically or by mail,” he added. “While public Masses are now suspended, parish expenses are not. We also encourage those with the means to seek out opportunities to contribute to parish and diocesan programs that provide food and other essential items to the many who are now without work.”

The Diocese of Fall River covers the South Coast of Massachusetts, Cape Cod, and the islands. The bishop announced earlier this week that public Masses are scheduled to resume Saturday, May 30.

The Catholic Appeal that Kearns mentioned is an annual fundraising campaign that raised over $3 million last year from March to June.

Some Catholic churches in other parts of the state are planning to have their first public Mass since mid-March on the afternoon of Saturday, May 23.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker’s new executive order (issued Monday, May 18) calls for churches to limit attendance to 40 percent of the normal capacity of the building, to wipe down and disinfect the building between services, and to have church-goers wear masks and maintain social distancing.