The latest place to spend bitcoins? A Meridian church

zkyle@idahostatesman.comFebruary 6, 2014 

A worship service at Connections Church in Meridian.

PROVIDED BY JEREMY WIGHT

Connections Church in Meridian was never picky about whether members were Catholic, Lutheran or any other brand of Christianity. Now, the nondenominational, 120-member church isn’t picky about how it accepts donations, either.

In January, the church modified its website, imconnected.org, to accept bitcoin, an online form of money that has seen its use and value skyrocket in the past year. Bitcoin is a difficult thing to explain quickly; click here for a full Nov. 2 Idaho Statesman breakdown of how it works.

Connections opened in 2009. Jeremy Wight, Connections executive pastor since January 2013, said accepting Bitcoin can only help the small church - or for that matter, any business.

“Why not?” he said. “Why would any business who understands Bitcoin not give people more options to pay for their services?”

Online currencies are called “cryptocurrencies.” Bitcoin is by far the most widely used currency, though Wight said the church is also accepting litecoin, and will soon accept dogecoin.

Each month, the Connections website, imconnected.org, shows the progress made toward reaching the church’s monthly $9,500 goal. The church accepted $6,500 in donations in January.

Donations pay for electricity and other operations costs, as well as for part-time stipends for Wight and Senior Pastor Dusty Taylor, Donations also support the church’s contributions to Christian Children’s Ranch in Eagle, which places at-risk children in Christian homes, as well as a small church Wight helped start in Ao Nang, Thailand.

Wight owns and uses bitcoins. Like many cryptocurrency enthusiasts, he likes the idea of a global currency that isn’t regulated by the U.S. Federal Reserve or by any other government. He said charities have received generous Bitcoin donations because the donors want to encourage bitcoin transactions. They believe increasing bitcoin trading means increasing its viability.

“As it flows, the functional value increases for the (cryptocurrency) community,” Wight said. “And, hopefully its dollar value will increase against fiat currency.”

Connections hasn’t received any bitcoin donations yet. Wight said he’d prefer to give cash donations because he wants to hold onto his bitcoins in hopes its value - which started at about $21 a year ago, jumped to $1,200 in December and now sits around $933 - will again rise.

Wight said he has subdued expectations for bitcoin donations. Recently, one of Wight’s friend was mystified by the whole idea of cryptocurrency when Wight tried to explain it, which Wight said is a fairly typical reaction. Bitcoin is creeping into the mainstream, but it has a long way to go, Wight said.

“I’m a pragmatist and a realist,” Wight said. “It’s still early on, and people are still very skeptical. They see this as like buying something on Farmville. But I believe in this currency. I hope this will increase awareness, and I hope that it will encourage people to start asking the question, what is this, and how do we use it?”

Zach Kyle: 377-6464, Twitter: @IDS_zachkyle

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