Fees and “extras” for Church weddings and funerals

On Tuesday 16 February, General Synod debated a motion from the Worcester Diocese on Parochial Fees, (GS 2017A and GS 2017B) when the Venerable Nikki Groarke, Archdeacon of Dudley (Worcester) moved on behalf of the Worcester Diocesan Synod:

“That this Synod call on the Archbishops’ Council to exercise its powers under s.1 of the Ecclesiastical Fees Measure 1986 so that fees prescribed as payable to parochial church councils in respect of funerals and weddings should include any costs and expenses of providing a verger.”

The motion was lost on a show of hands and a second motion at item 13 on the agenda, which made a similar request in relation to the costs and expenses of providing heating, was not debated, the Synod agreeing to move to Next Business.

Background

The Background Paper from the Remuneration and Conditions of Service Committee (RACSC), GS 2017B, explains that the legislation relating to parochial fees underwent extensive revision by the General Synod in 2011; the Ecclesiastical Fees (Amendment) Measure 2011 amended the Ecclesiastical Fees Measure 1986 making a number of changes to the legal framework relating to parochial fees, including the provision of an express power to prescribe what costs and expenses are included within the statutory fees.

Following extensive consultations, in July 2011 the first ‘new-style’ draft Parochial Fees Order was laid before the General Synod for approval; this specified that the provision of heating and the provision of a verger or caretaker were both included in the fees prescribed for wedding and funeral services in church. General Synod declined to approve the draft Order, the principle reason being that a large number of members were concerned that the inclusion of too many items within the prescribed fees – and in particular the cost of heating – made the arrangements too inflexible.

When a new draft Order was laid before the General Synod in February 2012, the cost of heating the church and the cost of providing a verger or caretaker were removed from the matters that were included in the fees prescribed for weddings and funerals in church; the removal of those items was welcomed and the draft Order was approved. This is described in more detail in our post Church weddings, increased fees and “extras”. Although the Ecclesiastical Fees (Amendment) Measure 2011 came into force in 2011, it did not become effective until 1 January 2013 under the Parochial Fees and Scheduled Matters Amending Order 2012. The fees for 2016 are available here and those for 2017 will be set in October this year.

In 2013 the Archbishops’ Council reviewed the newly-introduced fees; the terms of reference of its Remuneration and Conditions of Service Committee include “[making] recommendations about the scope, structure and level of parochial fees.” The Worcester Diocese responded to RACSC stating inter alia that there should be change with regard to the way vergers and heating were dealt with. In September 2013, RACSC’s responded that whilst it had some sympathy with the concerns raised, but pointed out that it was at the instigation General Synod that these elements had been excluded, and the Committee did not feel it appropriate to recommend this change without a further debate in the General Synod on Synod’s fees policy.

The background paper notes that there are practical issues associated with the derivation of a notional figure for heating costs and the deployment of vergers and also the matter of the effect in the relative costs of a funeral in a church or at a crematorium.

Comment

The Worcester Diocese Motion sought to reopen the debate around standardized costs for vergers and heating, suggesting that a standard element for heating should be included in the statutory fee, despite the variation in size of church buildings. The Motion argued for the deployment of a verger as being an essential requirement for conducting a service and therefore should not constitute an “extra”.

In view of the extensive consultation and discussions leading to the Measure, it is difficult to fault the logic of the Background Paper, i.e. the recommendation that any changes such as those proposed in the DSM should wait until the next Parochial Fees Order is due to be made in 2019, rather than by way of amending the existing 2014 Order part-way through its period of operation. Synod’s vote in Tuesday indicates that this course of action will now be taken. Nevertheless, the Motion presented “an opportunity for the newly-elected Synod to revisit these issues … at this juncture, mid-way in the current 5 year Order and will inform preparations for the 2019 Order”.

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "Fees and “extras” for Church weddings and funerals" in Law & Religion UK, 17 February 2016, http://www.lawandreligionuk.com/2016/02/17/fees-and-extras-for-church-weddings-and-funerals/

 

4 thoughts on “Fees and “extras” for Church weddings and funerals

  1. Perhaps the issue of heating should have been issued and argued first? I am waiting for a couple to come along in the winter and say no we do not want to pay for the church to be heated, or if you prefer the heating fee. So what does the minister do? Well they cannot work under a temperature of ‘at least’16 degrees Celsius Workplace Health Safety and Welfare Regulation 1992, ACOP (2nd edn, 2013) R.7., ACOP.60 So the Church will have to be heated, who pays; well if the agreement has already been made that the couple were not having heating – the Church. So there is a blind spot.

    • Yes, I wondered why the motion on vergers was debated first as you comment, for there is probably more common ground on the issue of heating, although practices will vary between churches in which there are daily services and activities, and those where there are not. I had forgotten the health and safety issue, but suspect that most congregations (and brides) would be uncomfortable at a mere 16 deg. C.

      • The proposal to include heating in the fee presupposes that there is a working heating system. Of my six rural churches, one has no working heating system at all (nor the £30-40k needed to install a sensible system), and only one of the other five has a system that I consider adequate. 16 deg minimum? If I were to abide by that I would have to cancel services in at least three of my churches for 6 months of the year. But does leading worship constitute ‘work’?

        • I agree 16 deg. c. is way too cold for anyone to sit in for any period of time, ideally it would be at least 21 degrees plus. That is why the regulation talks about ‘reasonable’ temperatures, and then the ACOP advances the 16 deg. c. as the temperature that should be ‘at least’ available to those present. The ACOP also points out that people in the ‘workplace’ should not need ‘special clothing’ to protect them from the temperature, in this case cold. So blankets are not an option.

          Mark mentions ‘Work’. Interesting point. We could have a very long debate on the status of whether one is a worker even if not an employee. Noting stipendiary ministers are not (at present anyway) deemed to be employees. Putting ‘workers’ to one side, a church is not a ‘domestic premises’, and also work does take place in a church. Verger, cleaner, flower arranger, bell ringers, gardeners etc. paid or not, it is all work and therefore covered under health and safety legislation. Thank goodness it is as well!

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