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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I had to respond to the letter from the writer who didn't think a minister should receive compensation for "saying a few words" at the funeral of a parishioner he has known for 20 years.

If only it were a matter of "saying a few words." My pastor-husband spends many hours with sick and dying members of our congregation. He gets out of bed at any hour of the night to go to their bedsides. He prays with them, holds their hands and offers words of comfort. He is often the liaison between doctors and family. His presence calms heated situations when people are grieving and not at their best. He does all this gladly. This is his calling.

When someone dies, my husband meets with the family, talks with the funeral director, arranges music, organizes a luncheon, prepares a service, prints a funeral bulletin and handles many other details, which can often take two or three days. This frees the family to grieve.

Families may give a monetary gift to the pastor out of gratitude for his dedication to their loved one and appreciation for his time. But if the gift cannot be given with a grateful heart, please do not give. My husband's payment is reserved for him in heaven. -- PENNSYLVANIA PASTOR'S WIFE

DEAR WIFE: When I said that clergypersons and musicians should be compensated for their professional services, I mixed apples and oranges. Many people (in and out of the clergy) wrote to point out that clergy are paid salaries and provided housing, etc., and funerals and weddings are considered part of their normal duties if they're for church members.

However, many grateful parishioners offer gratuities to the clergy in addition. These are gratefully accepted -- and are often added to the church's general or building funds.

Read on:

DEAR ABBY: Unfortunately, I was not surprised at the content of the letter from "No Price on Friendship," concerning paying the singer at a funeral.

I am a professional musician with a master's degree in music. I'm paid to play for weddings, funerals, parties, grand openings, etc. My education, like any other, took a lot of time, effort and money, and I should be paid for my services. Fortunately, I don't have to earn a living at my profession because I'm married to a successful man. However, I have friends who have no other income than from professional appearances and private teaching.

My string quartet was once asked to play for three hours at a pig roast. The hostess offered us dinner as compensation. Needless to say, we declined the job. We do, however, frequently offer free performances at nursing homes and schools for children with disabilities.

Some people just don't "get it." Please, Abby, let your readers know that everyone -- even musicians -- needs to make a living and should be paid for his or her efforts. -- TIRED OF EXPLAINING IN MICHIGAN

DEAR TIRED: You have stated it very well. They don't need another chorus from me.

Dear Abby is written by Pauline Phillips and daughter Jeanne Phillips.

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby -- Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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