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by Abigail Van Buren

Minister's Wrath Rains Down on Collecting Ceremonial Fees

DEAR ABBY: I have just read with disgust a letter in your column from a clergyperson giving a specific time when the clergy should be paid for performing a marriage. The writer is concerned that if payment is not made preceding the ceremony, he/she will have to ask for payment at a later time.

Ministers in most churches receive a salary that should include the performance of any service done in the church. I cannot help but wonder what the tab would be for a baptism or a funeral. In my denomination, services such as those are considered sacraments of the church. To even think of charging for any of them is nothing short of blasphemy.

Certainly, I have received gifts from brides and grooms for performing their wedding ceremony, but to expect or to ask for payment is simply not acceptable. It is crassness such as this that gives the church and its ministers much bad press.

Do you suppose that this person sends statements proclaiming "service rendered" that carry a monthly service charge if not paid promptly?

Hopefully, this individual will remember that the role of a minister is primarily that of a servant. -- THE REV. RALPH O. MARSH, ATHENS, GA.

DEAR REV. MARSH: Perhaps you are judging this clergyperson a bit too harshly. A survey of churches in the Los Angeles area reveals that some churches charge a "usage fee" for the church building (and minister), while others charge non-members to perform marriage ceremonies, but waive the fee for members.

Now that people know your policy, I predict your membership will increase by leaps and bounds.