Cost to pray by the Bay
May 1, 2010 10:35 AM   Subscribe

How much does it cost to house and feed a (nun, monk, priest, etc) of various religious groups in the SF Bay area.

I am trying to do a comparison between the various religious ministrants in the SF bay area and, while I have e-mailed some monasteries I thought I would see if the hive mind had any access to that information.
posted by elationfoundation to Work & Money (3 answers total)
It may be difficult even for the ministries themselves to know this. Most Protestant churches will have a pretty straight-up number, as Protestant clergy attached to groups this permanent are generally salaried much in the same way as any other employee.

But monks and nuns, of whatever religious stripe, are frequently supported by some combination of charitable giving and self-supporting work, e.g. they keep a garden, work in a hospital, teach at a school, etc. In many cases, members of religious orders are actually assets from a pure expense standpoint, as it's entirely possible that they earn a salary which far exceeds the money their order spends on them to keep body and soul together.

For example, there was a Franciscan priest attached to my law school who was paid like any other law professor (low six figures, I'm guessing) but who turned his paycheck directly over to his order. The order probably paid the school some small bit for his upkeep and paid him a small stipend for personal expenses, but he's a net source of income for his order.

In short, these numbers may 1) be more complicated than you think, and 2) may not give an accurate picture of the economic impact of religious upon their orders.
posted by valkyryn at 10:43 AM on May 1, 2010

Valkyryn, Thank you. That was very insightful. I am just looking for the bare cost of housing and food. Not, the earnings. It is for a more humorous infographic, so the numbers need not be completely telling of their value, etc. But, i do want them to be as accurate as possible.
posted by elationfoundation at 11:03 AM on May 1, 2010

Even so, it's probably more "What would this cost on the open market" not "What does the order actually spend." Most orders have owned their properties for years if not generations, so housing costs are more a function of capital than revenue. And if they're dealing with donated food, their budget might be quite low even if their consumption is high.

A more interesting question might perhaps be how much of an endowment and/or revenue stream a given order wants before it will accept another full-time member. That's probably closer to what you're really looking for, but it's also something orders probably aren't willing to share with the public.

Either way, I have a suspicion that the best you may be able to do is pull down average cost of living figures from various governmental websites and do some back-of-the-napkin, assumption-based calculations.
posted by valkyryn at 1:26 PM on May 1, 2010

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