Recognizing donors

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q: I am a wet-behind-the-ears Director of Worship for a diocese and learning more every day but this one stumped me: 

One of the parishes in our diocese is looking to build a new church building to hold their growing parish community (God be praised!). I was asked by our Office of Development if there are any restrictions or guidance on recognizing their major donors in the new church space. I know in older churches I have seen names of donors on many things such as pews and stained glass, but I am not sure if there is more modern discussion on the issue. I was not able to find anything in my go-to resources (General Instruction, Built of Living Stone) in my initial search but of course I did not read them front to back. 

Any expertise or wisdom is appreciated! Thank you for your blog. I have learned so much from it!


A: Congratulations on your new position. Thank you for offering your service to the church.

I don’t know of any guidelines either. I believe I didn’t even treat this in my book on church dedications, New Church, New Altar.

So, I’d just offer some thoughts for you. Some donors will contribute well, and I mean very well, if they know that their name will be inscribed in a permanent part of the church such as a window. Others would be pleased with a smaller recognition. When I pastored a parish in the rural part of our diocese, we created a kind of scrapbook for display in the gathering area. There we put a photo of the item donated, the name and photo of the donor, and if appropriate the name and photo of the person in whose memory the donor made the gift. This became hugely popular in that community, and we were able to add to it in the years ahead.

In general, I think the names of donors should be discreet, so that they do not distract from the liturgy or from images of the saints whose holiness exceeds that of most of the rest of us. The names and images of those who inhabit the halls of heaven will mean the most to future generations.