August, 2002
In This Issue:
On Clergy Gratuities
(aka "Stole Fees")
The Dark Side of Santa Monica
Homepage - St. Augustine by the Sea Episcopal Church, Santa Monica, California
On Clergy Gratuities
(aka "Stole Fees")

by The Rev. Hartshorn Murphy

From time to time, people ask Joyce or me about how much we charge for a baptism or to do a funeral or a wedding. I had always been surprised by this questions and had never understood the context from which it arose until some years ago when I tried to resolve a dispute between Holy Family (Episcopal) church in North Hollywood and its neighboring Roman Catholic parish. The dispute was over "unfair labor practices," as our small mission congregation baptized children in this large Hispanic barrio for free and the Roman Catholics charged fees up to $2,500. We are aware that many Jewish congregations charge a fee for seats for high holy days. One evangelical Protestant church I visited in Memphis took up two collections on Sunday: the tithers collection in which those who gave the full 10% came forward to the front of the auditorium to present their gifts and be recognized by both pastor and people with applause, and the regular collection in which plates were passed among us common folk who, presumably, were working their way toward the full gift.

The issue of money and sacraments is a serious one and while it is not our place to criticize other traditions, in Episcopal polity, the clergy never charge a fee for presiding over the sacraments (baptism, holy communion, confirmation, reconciliation [confession], unction [anointing for healing], weddings or ordination) or other rites of the church (e.g. funerals).

It is appropriate to make an offering to the clergy discretionary funds. These are church, not personal, accounts of funds administered by the clergy to provide for needs in and outside our church community that, for confidentiality reasons, are not provided for in the church budget (e.g. a person needing medical help, food, temporary housing, and the like).

Your ongoing, regular financial contributions, Sunday by Sunday, provide for access to the sacramental and pastoral ministry of St. Augustine's for each other and for the larger community. To be asked to pay a fee beyond your pledge (or regular contribution) is not Episcopal custom here or in any other congregation.

Copyright © 2002 St. Augustine by-the-Sea