City of Dreams

Church and Sunday in Old New York,
page 10 of 16

The deacons had full control of all the funds of the church; they collected the contributions of the congregation by walking up and down the aisles and thrusting in front of each “range” of seats in the face of the seated people small cloth contribution-bags, or sacjes, hung on a hoop at the end of a slender pole six or eight feet in length, — fashioned, in fact, somewhat after the model of scoop-nets. This custom — the use of so unfamiliar a medium for church-collecting — gave rise to the amusing notion of one observant English traveller that Dutch deacons passed round their old hats on the end of a walking-stick to gather church-contributions.

Often a little bell hung at the bottom of the contribution-bag, or was concealed in an ornamenting tassel, and by its suggestive tinkle-tinkle warned all church-attendants of the approach of the deacon, and perhaps aroused the peaceful church-sleepers from too selfish dreams of profitable barter in peltries. In New Utrecht the church sacje had an alarm-bell which sounded only when a contribution was made. A loud-speaking silence betrayed the stingy church-goer. The collection was usually taken up in the middle of a sermon. The sacjes stood or hung conveniently in the deacon’s seat. In Flatbush and other towns the deacons paused for a time in front of the pulpit —sacje in hand — while the domine enjoined generosity to the church and kindly Christian thought of the poor. The collection-bags in Flatbush were of velvet.

It is said that stray Indians who chanced to wander or were piously persuaded to enter into the Fort Orange or Albany church during service-time, and who did not well understand the pulpit eloquence of the Dutch tongue, regarded with suspicious and disapproving eyes the unfailing and unreasonable appearance of the karck-sacje; for they plainly perceived that there was some occult law of cause and effect which could be deduced from these two facts, —the traders who gave freely into the church-bags on Sunday always beat down the price of beaver on Monday.


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