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9.11.11

The Dreaded Collection Tin

You know those moments, when you're sat at a Christening, Christmas Church service, etc and you notice in the pews behind you that something is being passed around. 
Its the collection tin.
You hurry to get hold of your handbag, fumble around and grab your purse and then open it to be greeted with three 2p coins, a 5p coin and a couple of 10ps. 
You discreetly grab these coins tight in your hand and place them in the tin, amongst all the £1 and £2 coins and £5 and £10 notes, hoping no one would notice how little you'd put in.
What must the money go towards anyway? 
Teabags, coffee and biscuits for afterwards? Prayer sheets? Candles? Or just into a pot for a rainy day?
I always thought the same. 
I always forget about the tin and go to church totally unprepared. 

Tonight we had a meeting with the Reverend who will perform Harrys Baptism. He is "second in command" at the church we will be attending and has a day job. His work as a priest is unpaid, yet he has the same passion, if not more, than other Priests we've met.
He was a lovely man and we talked about how the church has changed over the years, the meaning of Baptism, the roles of Godparents, the running order and "script" for the Baptism, as well as other things.
He pointed out the time when the collection tin will be passed around and mentioned to us about pre-warning people of this so as to not cause embarrassment. 

He then went on to tell us where this money goes. And we were quite shocked at what we were told.
There are three churches in that particular area and they have to pay £30,000 a year to the Church of England just to have 'membership'. 
On top of this are the costs to have a Priest stationed and placed in these area to run the churches. 
He mentioned another area close by which has similar costs, yet one of the churches has a congregation consisting of just 4 people! Yet they are able to raise the minimum needed to get their membership and to have their Priest. If not, the church wouldn't run and within no time at all the buildings would simply be ruins. 
I was gob-smacked.
I never realised a church had to pay the Church of England a "membership fee" Let alone such a high fee at that.
Even more gob-smacked that the church doesn't charge for Christenings, although I knew we weren't charged for Charles' Christening I wasn't then aware of the amount they had to pay out just to keep their doors open. 

We aren't regular church goers. My husband, although he has been Christened, is not really a believer and I 'have a foot in the door' so to speak.
It is important to us though to have our children Christened and certainly important to me that they know the key stories from the bible.
I am embarrassed and ashamed that I don't know some of the most popular bible stories.
I think that, Christian or not, bible stories should be taught to our children just to widen their everyday trivia and knowledge. Not only this but the stories from the Bible are actually quite lovely.
Whether or not you believe in it you can't tell me that Noahs Ark isn't a cool story?! Or even Mary and Joseph and the birth of baby Jesus.

I think that these days we are quick to criticise and condemn Christians, and religion. I honestly don't know many people at all who regularly attend church or believe in God. Most wouldn't dream of attending a Sunday Service or even be interested in reading even one chapter of the bible.
Yet, the majority of us celebrate Christmas. CHRISTmas. A celebration started of due to a Christian story. It essentially is a Christian Celebration. Take away the tinsel, the presents, the trees, the baubles, the pretty flashy lights, the Christmas pudding and so on. Strip it down so all these things are gone and keep the real celebration of Christmas. Most people I'd know would be back at work living a normal day. Not celebrating the birth of Jesus. 
Easter. Its not just about chocolate. Or an Easter bunny. Its also a religious celebration. Again, something a lot of people I know fail to recognise.

I'm not preaching and telling everyone to go to church. To believe in God and be good Christians.
But I bet all of us notice churches as we drive or walk past. 
I bet at some point all of us comment on the beauty of at least one church.
I love visiting new churches and seeing how they are decorated inside and soaking up the atmosphere inside each one. Although some are not as good as others! 
I couldn't imagine our landscape without churches. Especially the older style ones. So much history and so much work gone into ever inch of its beauty and structure.
Not only this, but church [religion] can provide a lifeline for so many.

One of my nans is a Jehovahs Witness and I know how important her religion is to her and although I am not part of it, I get comfort from the fact that its a key element in her everyday life.
Without it she would be lonely and would struggle to get through the day.

One thing I will do is to teach our sons the story of Christmas and the real reason behind it. I don't want them just to think that Christmas is about presents.
The last two Christmas Eves I have taken Charles to Church, along with my mum. Last years wasn't as great as the first one but this was simply because we wanted to attend another church to see how they celebrated. We didn't enjoy it as much and the atmosphere wasn't as joyous and magical. 
My mum is always well prepared for the collection tin and has let Charles place the money in each time.

If you won't give to the collection tin to keep these churches alive and open, then why are you there in the first place?

After finding out tonight just how important the collection tin is I will also be prepared with money when I visit church in the future. 
They will open their doors to anyone so why not give a little something back.