DEAR ABBY: I am an ordained minister and a senior citizen. At the present time I do not have a position with a church. I rely on part-time work officiating at funerals and weddings and earn a very modest living.
I work hard to make each funeral service meaningful. It often involves meeting with family members to hear stories about their loved one, and sometimes I must drive many miles to and from the church where the funeral is held. I always receive compliments from the families afterward, telling me how touched they were. Then they fail to pay me a single red cent! Most of these people know I am essentially unemployed, yet they offer me nothing for all my work.
Abby, nobody goes into the ministry for the money, but clergy have to eat, fill their gas tanks and pay their bills just like everyone else. What can I do to make sure I am compensated? Please don't tell me to set a specific fee, because I'd be glad to accept any offering they can afford. Besides, it seems tacky for a member of the clergy to ask for a fee upfront. It would be different if I was still on staff at a church and receiving a salary, but such is not the case. -- THORNY ISSUE IN FLORIDA
DEAR THORNY ISSUE: Please reconsider your policy about setting a fee for your services. Grieving families often forget anything beyond their grief. It is all right to say when you are called, "Please understand that I cannot do this for free. Would 'X' amount be fair?" That way your compensation can be negotiated. And if they forget, send a gentle reminder. Justice and charity walk hand in hand.