Monday, November 10, 2008

Maine flocks tighten belts

A report from Maine about how the economy is affecting church budgets especially as winter approaches.

For some churches on the edge, this could be a winter of final reckoning.

"We are all on survival mode," said the Very Rev. Benjamin Shambaugh, dean of the Episcopal Cathedral Church of St. Luke in Portland.

Like many congregations with drafty pre-energy crisis buildings, St. Luke's is feeling the squeeze that comes from heating its soaring interiors. Shambaugh expects St. Luke's to have spent $40,000 on oil to heat its State Street building by the end of this year, a big chunk of the church's $578,000 annual budget.

Shambaugh said that prompted his church to take out a loan to remove its elderly oil-burning heating system and replace it with an energy-efficient natural gas system.

Shambaugh also is girding for scantier giving in the coming year, as congregation members feel the pinch in their own pockets. Members are being urged to help out through increased volunteering at the church's Alexander charitable endeavors, including a pantry that provides food and household goods.

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