Synod, wedding fees and the other side of the story
In my previous post on this blog, I had a go at Synod for rejecting the proposals for wedding fees since it allows some churches, some not too far from me, to continue taking advantage of couples with exorbitant prices.
Since then, I’ve not had any public comments but I’ve had a few private emails from clergy colleagues who have been wise to give me another side to the story. They have made me think further and I want to share some of that thinking here.
As with all things, there are always (and at least) two ways to look at a situation and I guess much of people’s engagement with this particular debate depends on where you stand. I currently work in a fairly non-descript, sixties church building that is relatively easy to heat, isn’t falling down, but also does few weddings. One of the reasons we do very few is because a very pretty medieval church nearby absorbs them all (with some hefty fees to match).
However, if you are working in a very old church, or one that is very large in size (either of which could make it difficult to heat) you might read this debate differently and the basic problem is that ‘one size fits all’ doesn’t really work because one size doesn’t fit all.
If you work in a very large church or a very old church or one with an inefficient heating system, Â£425 for a wedding would leave you ‘making a loss’ on every wedding conducted. One colleague had a meticulous church treasurer spend a long time taking gas and electricity readings and came to the conclusion that to have the church heated for a wedding on a Saturday at any time other than high summer would cost anywhere between Â£100 and Â£150. And at the moment, the “official” sum coming to the PCC for a wedding is Â£136. The sums don’t work unless they charge extra.
I still don’t think that this review of fees was entirely wrong but I’m starting to learn that they weren’t entirely right either. Clearly, there are some parts of the fees (as is the case now) that ought to be the same the whole country over. The reading of Banns or the provision of a Priest ought to be consistent nationally.
It does seem, however, as if energy bills (amongst one or two others) are the biggest area that simply won’t work in a single, national, fee. It’s just not feasible to try and ask all churches, from the smallest 40 seat chapel to the largest 500 seat minster, to charge the same for gas and electricity. There were other issues with the revision of fees that have been pointed out to me, but fuel costs seem by far the largest and most expensive of the issues involved. Of course, that also raises a much bigger and equally complex issue regarding the environment, energy costs and how churches could and should be pioneering new technologies but that’s for another day.
I also continue to think that there needs to be some way to regulate and curtail the practices of the fee ‘offenders’ to avoid couples being taken for a ride, but thanks to my colleagues for making me think and helping me see things from other perspectives.