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Snow, cold can have effect on collection plate

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More than the temperature has dipped this winter.

At some area churches, giving also has dropped when Sunday services were canceled at least twice when the polar vortex wrapped its icy fingers around Bartholomew County.

Twelve times this winter, there has been measurable snow locally on the weekends.

At The Ridge, giving is down about 30 percent in 2014, according to the Rev. Jerry Day Jr., lead pastor.

At the church where weekly attendance usually hovers at about 1,500, weather led to cancellation of services Jan. 5 and March 2, as it did at many churches in and around Columbus.

But Day believes members can make up the shortfall.

“Ridgers have always responded in the past,” Day said.

He sent an email to members after the March service cancellation, just to make people aware of the current drop.

The Ridge Operations Manager Mike Morrow mentioned it helps that about 30 percent of the church’s membership gives online, eliminating the need for an in-person collection with many people.

At St. Bartholomew Catholic Church, all Saturday and Sunday Masses have been conducted as planned this winter, even though March 2 crowds dipped slightly from the average weekly attendance of 4,200, staff said.

Business manager Mike Shelton said giving was down about 8 percent in February from budgeted projections based on fall member pledges.

“But people here are very conscientious about their giving,” Shelton said, adding that the gap probably will be filled in the next few weeks. “They’re very glued in about what they commit to with God. This is a very stable parish.”

A related financial issue directly tied to the weather this winter has been a 25 percent increase in snow-removal expense, Shelton said.

That’s by far the highest percentage over budget that he’s seen for such a winter expense in his six years working at the church, he said.

“I have to look at ‘Where else can we make that up?’” Shelton said. “When the weather gets bad, we clearly tell people to use their judgment about attending (Mass). But we also want the sidewalks and parking lot to be safe and clean.”

First United Methodist Church administrative assistant Tammy Fields said her church is on par with projected giving, despite a couple of cancellations of weekend services.

“We’re kind of an older church with many of the same members for years,” Fields said. “And they give consistently, whether they’re snowbirds gone for six months or whether they’re not gone.”

Fields said there are some lulls that surface at times during the year.

“But they always make it up pretty quickly,” she said.

The Rev. Dan Cash at Columbus’ First Baptist Church said the wintry weather’s impact has been nearly negligible.

“I think it’s a reflection of this congregation’s good stewardship that they’re staying on top of that,” Cash said.

He added that the pastoral staff does teach about elements of giving, but “only within the broader context of what it means to be a disciple of Christ — not just from a fundraising need or perspective.”

However, Cash said that snow-removal expense is up along with boiler repair expenses partly related to abnormally cold temperatures.

At the 10-year-old Westside Community Church in Columbus, this year’s two cancellations probably are the only ones in the history of the church, said the Rev. Robert Vester, associate pastor.

“So I’m pretty sure giving is slightly down,” he said. “But many of the people here are very thoughtful to double up some weeks on their giving to make up for when they have missed.”

Vester said leaders sent out a note to Westside members after the cancelled March 2 service to inform them or four upcoming activities. A closing line of that mailing also asked them to be aware of the church’s need for continued giving.

“But,” Vester said, “it certainly wasn’t a direct appeal (for money).”

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