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Diocese pilots new scheme supporting tourist hot-spot churches

The Diocese of Carlisle – the Church of England in Cumbria – is piloting a special mobile phone scheme in a bid to boost church coffers in some of the county’s tourist hot spots.

At the request of the Church Commissioners, the body which supports the Anglican Church’s work and mission, six churches are taking part in the scheme: St John’s Keswick, St John the Evangelist Cowgill, St Oswald’s Grasmere, St Patrick’s Patterdale, St Andrew’s Penrith and St Mary’s Rydal.

Each is being provided with bespoke publicity material and roller banners which include a special Quick Response (QR) bar code. Visitors simply scan the QR code using their mobile phone’s camera (no special app is needed) to access a dedicated donations page for the respective church.

Sophie Hodge, the Diocese’s Stewardship Enabler, said: “Fewer and fewer people are actually paying for things with cash these days, as contactless and electronic payments are made ever easier. This pilot project looks to address this issue for our churches.

“Visitors are often taken with a church building, with its heritage, warmth of welcome and as a sacred space for prayer, contemplation and worship. But they find they can’t make the financial gift they’d like to because they simply don’t have any money in their pockets.

“So this pilot looks to provide a different way for people to make a donation as easily as possible; just a quick scan of the code and then you decide how much to give.”

The pilot project will run for six months after which Sophie, in tandem with the Church Commissioners, will analyse giving levels at each of the six churches to establish its effectiveness.

If successful then plans would be developed for a further county-wide roll out, through which churches would be able to draw on support and central resources to help them adopt the scheme.

One of the first churches to receive the pilot publicity material and roller banner is St John’s Keswick. The Lake District town is one of the most popular for the millions of tourists who visit each year.

The Rev Canon Michael Webb is Chair of The Friends of Keswick St John, a new charity launched in June 2018 to raise interest and support from the thousands of visitors drawn to the church annually.

Money raised by The Friends goes towards the conservation of St John’s, as well as the further development of the building and maintenance of the churchyard.

Canon Michael said: “There is a good foot fall of visitors in the church every day and, though it’s difficult to put an exact figure on it, I’d think that roughly a third of our congregation on a Sunday is made up of visitors from all over the world.

“So this project could be very beneficial for us. I think it’s really important we make giving as easy as possible and this scheme enables people to give at a level that they comfortable with. I could envisage this being particularly useful for our younger visitors who are naturally more used to our growing cashless society.

“I have seen churches in Australia where cash machines were available for donations but this mobile phone system means that it can be carried out unattended. We couldn’t have someone here all day just in case people wanted to give a donation; the pilot’s approach allows people to get on with it, on their own, by simply scanning the code with their mobile phone. ”

An interim report exploring the scheme’s effectiveness will go before the Church Commissioners in the spring, with a final report scheduled for June 2019.

ENDS

Picture caption: From the left Sophie Hodge, Diocesan Stewardship Enabler, Val Montgomery, verger Keswick St John and the Rev Canon Michael Webb, Chair of The Friends of Keswick St John.


For further information please contact Dave Roberts, Diocesan Communications Manager, on 07469 153658, 01768 807764 or at communications@carlislediocese.org.uk.

 

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