From Mr Alan Smith
Sir, — On reading Margaret Duggan’s preview of the next General Synod meeting (News, 24 June), I note with some concern the proposal to fix new increased fees for weddings and funerals, these fees to include a proportion for heating, verger, etc.
It is the PCC that is responsible for the heating, maintenance, administration, and provision of verger services in the church, and only it knows how much it costs to run its church. Only the PCC is, therefore, in a position to set charges to recover some of these costs — or to forgo them in the case of parishioners with financial problems.
Would we, as a PCC, be sued if we charged the new proposed fees, then failed to provide a verger; or if there was no heating, because our 40-year-old boiler had failed yet again? I do not believe that this proposal to consolidate clergy fees with other costs should be a matter for the Synod to determine, as that would be an exercise of authority without the concurrent responsibility.
I therefore ask members of Synod for this proposal to be dismissed.
17 Ladysmith Road
Cheshire SK15 1HB
From the Revd Adrian Bell
Sir, — I was very sad to read that the General Synod may propose standardising wedding fees.
Having spent two excellent days on a wedding-preparation course, outlining good practice and encouraging couples to get married in church (this resulted in an increase in wedding bookings for 2011/12), I do believe that, with the new system, many couples may be put off marrying in church because of the high cost.
The suggested basic wedding fees of £525, plus organist, bells, and choir, would increase wedding fees Fakenham Parish Church from £540 to £625. Because some churches, sadly, charge very high fees for extra services, it will mean that we will have to suffer. Surely there must be some other answer.
In a town where many couples are on the minimum wage, or not in work, this increase may just put some couples off having a wedding in church. Hoteliers, photographers, florists, and bridal and car-hire firms may well see the wedding industry as lucrative, but the Church should look at pastoral care, not profit. I would prefer to take weddings without a fee, and raise the money in other ways.
After 40 years in the ministry this weekend, maybe I am a lone voice.
The Parish Office
Fakenham NR21 9BZ
From the Revd Richard Tillbrook
Sir, — How typicical that those with money do not see a rise of £140 in the cost of a church wedding as contentious. In this poor parish, it is hard for our people to raise £250. To argue that, because some parishes add to the charge, it is only fair that we all should, is rather like suggesting that those of us who shop at Aldi should pay Harrods prices in order to make it fair for all. There are no extra charges in this parish.
In a time of such austerity, it is a disgrace that the Church of England should even contemplate such a huge increase to line the diocesan coffers. If this gets through, I suggest that clergy in poor parishes such as mine exercise their right to waive fees altogether, or suggest a town-hall wedding followed by a free blessing in church.
Vicar of Old Heath
The Vicarage, Abbot’s Road
Colchester CO2 8BE