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by Abigail Van Buren

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.

DEAR ABBY: When I fell in love with Rodney, he was a single parent with a 4-year-old son called "Junie," for Junior. Rodney's wife had died before Junie was a year old. When I came on the scene, Junie started calling me "Mama" because I was the only mother he had ever known.

Now, after 10 years of marriage, some of Rodney's relatives still refer to Junie and me as "stepmother" and "stepson." That just breaks my heart.

When will I officially be known as "Mom"? -- JUNIE'S ONLY MOM

DEAR MOM: To people who think the way Rodney's relatives do, probably never. You can't change them, but you can change the way you react to them. When you are referred to as "stepmother," you might remind them that, although you may not be his biological mom, you are the only mother Junie has known. Then bask in the knowledge that you are truly Junie's mom, regardless of what anyone calls you.

DEAR ABBY: This is my "how we met" story:

In 1948, two friends stopped by my home and told me they were going to a dance in Brooklyn. Since I lived in New Jersey, I told them I didn't want to go. I had no car, so I didn't want to get involved with a girl so far away. Well, they would not take "no" for an answer. Since they had a car, I gave in and decided to go.

At the dance, I saw a very tall and attractive girl across the room. I walked over to ask her to dance, but another guy beat me to it. So instead of going back to where I had been, I asked the girl who had been sitting next to her for a dance.

To make a long story short, last month we celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary. -- STILL DANCING IN BERGENFIELD, N.J.

DEAR STILL DANCING: Congratulations on your golden anniversary. All married couples should be so lucky.

CONFIDENTIAL TO MY READERS: Easter will soon be here, and although I've cautioned you before, I must caution you again: If you plan to surprise a child with a live rabbit, baby duck or chick, please consider that living creatures need proper care. Unless you are absolutely certain that the little creature will receive the care it needs to survive, please give a stuffed bird or animal instead. Regardless of how cute baby animals are, they should not be given to children on impulse.

Everybody has a problem. What's yours? Get it off your chest by writing to Dear Abby, P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069. For a personal reply, please enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope.

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