Historical Unitarian church accounting!

I ran across an American Unitarian Association booklet “Church finance and accounting” — undated, but having internal examples suggesting 1914 — that makes for fun reading.

On the one hand, some things were very different then. It includes a review of the proprietor (pew owner) and pew rental system, and deprecates both to the free-pew (not that we call it that) system we have today, “the most modern and democratic way of financing a church, and is the system adopted in most new churches.” I can’t imagine the first two options today.

On the other hand, more seemed very familiar. I’m a member of Universalist National Memorial Church, Washington and we had a congregational meeting last Sunday. We reviewed financials that were more like those suggested than not.

The booklet was also full of candid advice. One good example:

Business-like methods in the financial administration of a church are of vital importance to the welfare of the society. Inefficient administration, hand-to-mouth ways of raising money, carelessness or tardiness in the payment of bills, usually indicate low vitality in a church, and are a constant source of danger and invitation to financial calamity.

Sample collection envelope text
And also a set of worked examples with charming fictitious churches. I might have to revive a couple for my own work:

  • Church of Our Father, Hope City, Colorado (a mission church)
  • Unity Church, Winterboro, Mass.
  • All Souls’ Church, Washington Square, Oakwood, N. Y. (obviously old and wealthy)
  • All Souls’ Church, Canterbury, Mich.
  • Unity Church, New Boston, Oregon

3 Replies to “Historical Unitarian church accounting!”

  1. Had no idea there was a Universalist Church in Canterbury, Mich. Suburbs of Detroit, near the present day Universalist church in Farmington.

  2. How interesting that I, as a cleric, would have been on a par with the manger of a cotton mill in relating to the board of directors! I’m curious that of all the analogies they might have chosen, it was cotton mill. These days, perhaps executive director of a non-profit, meliorative agency?

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