Project Canterbury

Pew Rents Do Not Support Churches.

Philadelphia: Free Church Association, 1875.

The following paper has been prepared for the purpose of testing, by experience obtained in the Diocese of Pennsylvania, the comparative efficiency of the “pew system” and the “Free,” or “voluntary system,” in paying the expenses of the Churches.

The tables contain the statistics as given in the “Journal of Convention,” for all Parishes presenting complete reports for the year ending May 1st, 1875 , in the following particulars, to wit: 1st. The “current expenses, including salaries” and “Sunday [1/2] School expenses,” and the assessment for the Convention and Episcopal funds. 2d. The number of sittings (omitting free seats in pewed churches; 3d. The income from pew rents in pewed churches, and from voluntary contributions in free churches for Parish purposes, as above defined.

For free churches which pay their expenses, only the amount of the offerings needed to pay the expenses is given, unless otherwise stated in the report.

Amounts contributed for repairs and improvements, for deficits in pewed churches on account of the insufficiency of pew rents, and for extra parochial purposes, parish schools, etc., are excluded. In a separate column the income per sitting is calculated; and finally, the deficit in pew rents. Tables I and II are parishes in the four counties outside of Philadelphia. Tables III and IV are parishes within Philadelphia County.

By this method a comparison of the two systems financially is secured, in a locality where the renting of seats has obtained almost exclusively since the establishment of the Church in this country.


The following facts are evident from the foregoing figures:

1st. That in the country districts no Church is supported by pew rents; that these rents pay little more than one-half the expenses, and average only $3.55 per sitting; while the free churches, which are for the most part Mission stations, (eight out of twelve requiring an average expenditure of only $200 per annum,) contribute $2.73 per sitting, or three-fourths as much.

And if these Missions are excluded from the comparison, as they should be the offerings of the other four churches are $5.50 per sitting, which is one-half as much again as the pewed Churches raise by their sittings.

2d. That in the city of Philadelphia only four churches pay expenses by pew rents, and the pew rents of all the Churches pay only three-fourths of their expenses, and average $6.18 per sitting.

While the free churches contribute $6.60 per sitting, a larger amount than is received in the pewed churches in rents, by seven per cent.

It must not be overlooked that while the pewed churches include the built up and wealthy portions of the city, the free churches are mostly in the suburbs, and in poorer districts.

These facts completely demolish the theory that Churches cannot be supported by voluntary offerings. Under every disadvantage, they obtain more in proportion to their sittings than is obtained by pew rental.

Project Canterbury