The Church of England has decided to increase the cost of funeral and wedding services by a massive 50% and 40% respectively. But will this just price out the poorest and make church services elitist?
Recently there’s been a glimmer of good news filtering through the press that the UK consumer price index (CPI) is beginning to fall from its 5.2% peak in September last year, reducing the squeeze on household budgets.
So it was startling to read recently that the Church of England had agreed to increase the cost of weddings and funerals from the beginning of next year by such large amounts.
Changes from January 2013
From next January, the cost of a church wedding will increase from £296 to £415 and the cost of a funeral service from £102 to £160. The new pricing structure seeks to standardise costs across the country including elements previously charged as ‘extras’, such as administration and cleaning.
To me, this sounds like it will be fairer to consumers, especially because, according to the General Synod, this means that in a number of churches the new fee may in fact be lower than what is currently charged after adding all those extras.
Part of the principle of the new fees is also that they should be affordable, with a right to waive fees in cases of clear hardship. Although there’s concern that choosing when to waive fees would put the clergy in a difficult position in assessing who meets the criteria.
A mixed reception
Although the price increases received overwhelming agreement among Synod members, with the majority feeling the increases were justified, some have spoken against it.
The Rev Canon Simon Killwick, a vicar in Moss Side, Manchester, says it’s hard to justify these increases during times of financial austerity. He’s been arguing that through increasing these costs, the Church of England is making it difficult for the poor to access these services, particularly when you could have a simple service at a registry office for around £100.
In an increasingly secular society it seems the Church of England may be shooting itself in the foot by implementing these price hikes. Do you feel they are fair, or will they price some out of church services? Are these prices coming too soon at a time when people are still feeling the effects of the recession?