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Do you know that at one point ‘pew rental’ was a common custom in the church? It was one of the ways, if not the chief way, to raise money. It was like paying admission.

I did a short Internet search and found several articles on the subject including one about church in Australia that mentioned the practice as part of a history on the church building. And I quote, “Apart from farming the church glebe, [which I assume was the garden] [now] the current Clarendon racecourse, the only other form of income was the pew rentals.

Rental was charged for the pews, varying in 1837 from £1/10/- to £5 for a family pew or 6/- to 12/6 for a single sitting.” In today’s US dollars, if my calculations are correct based on current exchange rates and allowing for inflation, that is about $12,000 US dollars and $15,000 Australian dollars for the family plan for one year!

However, wait, there’s more! The article goes on to say, “In 1843 the offertory, a totally new concept in Australia, was introduced. This innovation was viewed with suspicion with some church members leaving when the plate was handed around, but it is feasible they simply could not afford to pay. In 1956 the pew rental system was abolished making St Matthews the last church in Australia to retain this ancient system.”

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