Church blocks funeral cost rise
The Church of England has thrown out plans to increase the cost of weddings and funerals by nearly 50% after hearing of widespread opposition among the clergy.
Under the proposals, a standard national fee of £425 for a wedding and £150 for a funeral would have been imposed with parishes banned from charging extra for services such as heating, vergers and administration.
The Rt Rev James Langstaff, Bishop of Rochester, backing the new charges, said the apparent increase in the wedding fee from £284 to £425 was "not as steep" as it looked because the ability to make extra charges was no longer possible.
"Indeed in some places, what couples actually pay will almost certainly go down," he told the General Synod, meeting at York University.
But members of the General Synod from rural parishes said the move would leave them out of pocket when covering the costs of heating "bone chillingly" cold churches for funerals in the depths of winter.
Vicars from deprived inner city parishes said imposing the same charges across the board would discourage poorer couples hoping to tie the knot in church.
The Rev Sharon Jones, from Rochdale, said the proposed increase in marriage fees had caused "huge dismay" in her area.
"At a time when those involved in the wedding business are screwing as much money as possible out of couples, surely the church should be refusing to play the same game," she told the General Synod. "Marriage is a sacrament, it is a gift of God, it is an opportunity for us to demonstrate what is important to us."
Tim Allen, a General Synod member from St Edmundsbury and Ipswich diocese in Suffolk, said excluding heating bills would penalise rural parishes forced to heat churches in winter for funerals.
"Some of these funerals take place in winter when rural parishes are bone chillingly cold places," he told the General Synod. "For funerals in the depths of winter, any decent parochial church council, even the treasurer, will want to welcome the congregation by making an effort to heat the church to as near a reasonable temperature as can be achieved."