Changes make fees more open and transparent

Fees Officer Pauline Rowe discusses changes to the clergy fee system, designed to make it more open and transparent.

Clergy and parishes have been sent details of the wide reaching changes being made to the Fees system from January 2013. The changes, which follow a review set up by Archbishops Council, are designed to make the system more open and transparent.

Initiatives such as the Weddings Project had thrown up how, across the country, couples were getting charged vastly different rates for weddings with a whole range of extras being added to the initial costs. Research had also shown that funeral charges differed widely. This has led to churches loosing funerals to secular and independent ministers – a loss of a vital pastoral ministry. And with people much more used to making comparisons, and being prepared to look around, it was clear that changes had to be made.

Fees Officer, Pauline Rowe explains “its well known across the Church of England that churches were including a great deal of unreasonable items in their charges. This has given us a bad reputation and has not helped when we are trying to attract people into church.”

The most significant change is that the minister’s fee has gone to be replaced by a DBF Fee. This means it is lawfully payable to the Diocesan Board of Finance - a fee which applies to all clergy whether stipendiary or not, retired or in active ministry. It also applies to Readers taking funerals. Linked to this is the fact that PCCs now get a fee when clergy take a funeral at the crematorium – reflecting the time away from parish. And the DBF no longer receives a fee for searches carried out in church registers; a certificate of baptism; or the banns and issue of marriage certificates

These and other changes are fully explained in a letter sent to all clergy and parish treasurers this week. They affect all those who are involved with officiating at or in the administration of funeral and wedding services. They also give guidance about what can, or can’t be charged as extras. As Pauline said “we shouldn’t ask those coming to an occasional service to support the day to day running of the church. That is the role of the congregation through their generous giving.”

The changes also have implications for how we charge for funerals. The current arrangements have led to a drop in church funerals for example with Funeral Directors becoming more reliant on independent ministers. So next week we interview Margaret Sherwin, Area Dean in Wigan about a pilot project running there and in North Meols

Pauline welcomes the changes “these will make things fairer for parishioners and clearer for parishes. But most importantly they should help us reclaim funeral ministry and grow the number of weddings we can hold by being open and transparent about what we offer.”