Debit be damned? St. John's church defends new way of giving

Yes, St. Mark's Anglican Church has a handheld debit machine. No, it won't be making the rounds with the collection plate.

The idea 'came from the people, from the congregation ... who said, You need to make giving more accessible'

Rev. Robert Cooke says the new debit machine at St. Mark's Anglican Church is meant to be convenient for parishoners. (Ted Dillon/CBC )

Rev. Robert Cooke says his church's new handheld debit machine is just keeping up with the times and making giving easier for parishoners.

"It's a way to reach out to people who maybe find themselves in church that don't have cash or cheques," Cooke said Tuesday at St. Mark's Anglican church on Logy Bay Road.

"You may be here and want to make a donation to St. Mark's and we're just trying to make it easier to do that for people."

He said the machine will not be passed around with the collection plate, but will be in the office if people want to use it to make a donation.

"Actually [the idea] came from the people, from the congregation and from other people who said, 'You need to make giving more accessible,'" he said.

Cooke says paying electronically is 'just where society is right now.' (Ted Dillon/CBC)

Cooke explained it's the next step in donation options — monthly deductions, Visa and Mastercard payments have been implemented over the years. 

"People are always asking for more convenient ways to give and I don't think we are any different than any other charity," he said.

Convenient or blasphemous?

A post on the church's Facebook page alerting parishoners to the new portable debit machine is drawing a wide range of reactions, though most are favourable.

"Like it. Young people never carry cash," wrote one person on the post. 

"Fantastic idea! way to embrace changing times ... love having the option," replied another user. 

But not everyone is a fan. 

"Ridiculous. Everything is all about money. They should be more concerned on how many people they can get in there to worship rather than concentrating on ways they can get the money from them," reads one comment.

The collection plate will still be passed around during services. The debit machine will be in the church office. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

The old adage 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' is often applicable when it comes to decisions in the church, Cooke agreed — and not just at St. Mark's.

"People expect the church to be stuck in its ways, to be outdated. So I can see when the church is trying to do something new and progressive like this that people would respond in a negative way," he said.
"But we are no different than any other charity or religious or spiritual group. This is just where society is right now."

With files from Zach Goudie