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Empty Pews, Empty Collection Baskets: Coronavirus Hits Church Finances

(Reuters) St. Anselm Roman Catholic Church in New York’s Brooklyn borough is used to limping along, month after month, at a budget deficit of several thousand dollars a week.

But the church that sits in the city that is the epicenter of the U.S. coronavirus pandemic could always count on Easter. Last year, its Easter pew collection brought in $11,651. That was more than twice an average Sunday and, coupled with the church’s online Easter donations of $2,500, enough to cover its weekly operating expenses of $13,000, according to church records.

Like most churches around the United States, St. Anselm’s will be closed on Sunday, its members unable to gather and its priests unable to meet with them as the nation endures its worst public-health crisis in a century…

“We are in uncharted waters, financially,” said John Quaglione, a St. Anselm’s parishioner who is also a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn. “There will be some serious conversations and some strong conversations with the parishes and the economic folks to help get us through this.”

Easter Sunday is one of the biggest donation days of the year for U.S. churches, due largely to the spikes in attendance they typically see, according to church officials and nonprofit groups.

Even before health guidance shuttered most U.S. churches, many were struggling financially. Just half of Americans reported belonging to a church, synagogue or mosque in 2018, according to Gallup polling, down from 70% two decades earlier. Those who attend services go more erratically, according to the Pew Research Center, leaving fewer people to fill collection baskets.

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