The Good Funeral Guide Blog

C of E raises funeral fee to £160

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

The Church of England’s General Synod has just announced a rise in the fee payable to a priest for officiating at a funeral to £160. 

The fee takes into account both admin and also the heating and lighting of the church. 

There’s no information available yet on whether this fee will apply also to crematorium funerals.

But any increase in the C of E fee is, of course, good news for secular celebrants. 

Story in the Guardian here

 

44 comments on “C of E raises funeral fee to £160

  1. susie

    Saturday 28th November 2015 at 9:07 am

    i always thought the church and the vicar were free, when did it become a product

  2. Monday 27th October 2014 at 12:19 pm

    I’m the minister of a small independent chapel in South Wales. I only take maybe 6 or 7 funerals per year (always people I know) but I’ve never charged, neither has the church, nor the organist. That saves a bereaved family at least some money – we aren’t rich round here, and some have no insurance. My average time in funeral preparation and attendance is at least 12 hours. On minimum wage I suppose my work is worth about £70. I’d only charge if I was ever asked to take a stranger’s funeral, but I’d have to do more work then to get to know the family, since I couldn’t possibly turn up for a funeral without at least trying my best to offer some genuine comfort in terms of a proper tribute to their loved one.

    • Tuesday 28th October 2014 at 11:51 am

      Ah Matthew Bartlett, that’s the way chapel is supposed to be – is it not? With a minister who knows his congregation, sees them into the world…who walks beside them, through life’s triumphs and tragedies and plain ordinary living, and then out of it with care and compassion. Tis a great pity that every church minister in the land does not seem to care, as much you do, about his/her flock.

  3. Paul Ayers

    Saturday 17th November 2012 at 11:56 am

    This is an interesting discussion. I am a vicar, and a member of the General Synod which authorised the change of fees, after many years of debate, and with the approval of Parliament.
    In the Church of England, the funeral fee goes partly to the local Parochial Church Council towards maintaining ministry locally, and partly to the Diocese from which the clergy are paid. So the minister doesn’t keep any of the fee, it is offset against his/her stipend, no matter how many funerals he/she conducts.
    I am appalled that some clergy apparently do not visit the bereaved and plan the service with them. I always visit the family and spend up to an hour finding out about the immediate circumstances of the bereavement, the story of the life of the deceased, their social life, interests and character, and talking with the bereaved about how they are doing. I make full notes and include all of this in my sermon at the service. I also have a team of trained bereavement listeners in my church who contact the bereaved shortly after the service to offer a listening ear, and once or twice a year we invite them all to a Service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving in church, with refreshments and more opportunities for support.
    Hope this helps.

  4. John Wilson

    Saturday 25th August 2012 at 9:26 pm

    When I lived in London I sometimes played the organ for as many as 10 funeral services at the crematorium in a day. Most of the funerals were conducted by Church of England Clergy. With a few exceptions, it was obvious that those presiding had had no meaningful dialogue with the family before the service and knew only the barest details of the deceaseds life.
    The clergy of the Church of England are paid a stepend which is a nice euphemism for what the rest of us call a salary and enjoy other perks such as grace and favour houses which are rent free, so that they are able to carry out the function of their vocation in their parishes. This ministry is niot only for those who are in the pews on a Sunday, but also for all the souls that live in the parish boundary, whether they attend church or not.
    Given that a funeral service is often the first time that many of the bereaved have had any contact with the church for a number of years, in my view it is a PUBLIC RELATIONS DISASTER to charge them 160.00 for twenty minutes for someone who claims to have been sent by God. So much for Christian Charity!

    • Saturday 25th August 2012 at 11:51 pm

      Thank you for dropping by and leaving a comment, John. I think that ‘public relations disaster’ may well be the epitaph for this initiative.

    • susie

      Saturday 28th November 2015 at 9:10 am

      so very very true,,,and they wonder why the churches are empty,,,another profitable business,,,no charity here

  5. sweetpea

    Friday 10th February 2012 at 9:36 am

    Claire, that’s an interesting suggestion.

    But I’m not sure I’d trust my livelihood (or that of the fd) to the vaguaries of the British public. It’s something we celebrants don’t often hear about.

    An fd has only ever commented to me on the amount left in the collection on three occasions – all with large congregations. One where there was so much money left on the plate the fd had to put his hat out for the remainder, and there was £1000 in one envelope alone; one where the widow directly asked for money for herself and her daughters and not a single penny was put in the plate, and one where there was a grand total of £3.18. When I asked the fd who would have put in 18p, he suggested it was probably nine people, putting 2p each.

  6. Friday 10th February 2012 at 8:09 am

    Retiring collection for funeral costs – only once, in my work so far, and that was for a slightly desperate and broke situation. There was a degree of shamefacedness about it, which I thought was a pity – excellent, practical suggestion, that worked well. I even put in a groat meself.(Tax-deductible, of course…)

  7. Thursday 9th February 2012 at 5:51 pm

    Worth a post in itself, Claire. What a very good suggestion.

  8. Thursday 9th February 2012 at 5:50 pm

    I can never understand why the retiring collection is never for the cost of the funeral. In all the times I suggest this only once has it happened, and everyone was very happy to donate.
    Sorry maybe a smidge ‘off topic’

  9. Thursday 9th February 2012 at 3:35 pm

    […] It was interesting to follow the unfolding debate amongst funeral directors and celebrants in response the blog post ‘C of E raises funeral fee to £160′ here. […]

  10. sweetpea

    Thursday 9th February 2012 at 2:03 pm

    I really want fds to sit in on ceremonies which I take – apart from a family’s reaction to the celebrant, how else are they to get any impression of whom they have engaged? I’ve worked with nearly 50 different fds, and sadly, Jenny, I can only think of five ‘conductors’ who regularly attend the actual funeral service. Although one independent in particular has all the bearers in too.

    I’m sorry for Mr XX’s experiences with both clergy and celebrants – it is a disgrace, and not at all what forward-thinking celebrants would consider a desirable state of affairs.

    But it is also a good fd’s duty to look for other sources or avenues if there is a dearth of talent and integrity in his own area. Are you able to tell us where you are in the world? As James says, bus someone in if necessary, and be prepared to pay them a reasonable rate. How many good celebrants have gone back to other work because they can’t make a decent living? Kathryn and Jonathan are right – a bespoke civil or secular funeral is an entirely different experience. Good fds know this, and often form a bond with their trusted celebrant(s) – not only for their own satisfaction, but also because they are bright enough to realise that it is good business. Exceptional combinations of fd and celebrant attract attention in a local community – and slowly but surely lead to interest in how they are changing perceptions of what a funeral is.

    Now, fees. If we are to look at similar costings within the funeral itself, for a fully invested celebrant a fee of £140 to £180 is derisory. Even my plumber charges £60 an hour plus materials plus VAT. My solicitor £195 per hour plus VAT. Someone doing a celebrant’s work to any degree of satisfaction is likely to spend a minimum of 10 hours per funeral, plus lots of driving, plus lots of availability at all hours. It’s not uncommon to take phone calls at 11.00 pm to talk someone through a worry, to be writing at midnight and beyond to accommodate a request to include something in a funeral the next morning, to be called on Christmas day because a family you’ve worked with before has lost another member of the family and you are their first call….Kerching! it is not.

  11. Thursday 9th February 2012 at 12:06 pm

    An interesting area, this, Jenny. In terms of demarcation, the ceremony is the responsibility of the celebrant, and the health and safety of the mourners is the responsibility of host of the event, namely the venue. I wonder if some crematoria think that FDs take rather more upon themselves than they ought?

  12. Thursday 9th February 2012 at 11:44 am

    What seems to be emerging from this discussion is that celebrants are like FDs, some are ok but nothing special, some are terrible and some (the minority) are outstanding. I suspect it is very much in the interests of the ‘outstanding’ in both categories to find and work with each other where they can. We have a very close association with an outstanding celebrant who we recommend to most clients who are not sure what they want and are not followers of a particular faith.
    He is always excellent and families tell us what a difference he has made to their experience. It certainly hasn’t done us any harm!
    Another factor is that Keith would certainly never consider waiting outside during a funeral…in fact I was quite amazed on this forum to see that so many have experience of FDs who do. Keith hangs around the back like a mother hen in case there are any problems or anyone needs him. Yet another example of what seems totally obvious to me as an ‘outsider’ but clearly isn’t!

  13. Mr XX

    Thursday 9th February 2012 at 11:38 am

    I would love an enthusiastic dedicated celebrant to do exactly that. And a religious minister. No-one has, perhaps because such a person doesn’t exist in my area?

    My theory has always been that flowers are bought generously principally because when the people that we loved and cared for die, we want to ‘do something.’ As not everyone can be involved in the arrangement, we buy flowers.

  14. Thursday 9th February 2012 at 11:32 am

    Neatly skewers the imbalanced nature of how the cost of a funeral is measured and arrived at. The fact that often the flowers cost more than the celebrant is truly bizarre. Do they really contribute more to the tone of a funeral than what is said? (Don’t answer that Mr XX.)
    I don’t understand why good celebrants don’t ’embed’ themselves with an understanding fd. The fd gets a totally committed celebrant, hell, perhaps even a help at the other end of the stretcher. The celebrant gets to be involved with the body and so deepen their relationship with the family. The celebrant could renegotiate their fee and maybe get a bit more. Everybody gets a better funeral.
    If we didn’t take the service ourselves, it’s what we would do.

  15. Kathryn Edwards

    Thursday 9th February 2012 at 12:23 am

    With you, GM, on not being a celebrant full-time. I feel the need to complement the work by doing other things in the world, to refresh myself after such encounters, to fill up my story-hoard, to exercise different mental muscles.

    So many jobs probably shouldn’t be full-time . . .

  16. Wednesday 8th February 2012 at 10:42 pm

    I’m with Jonathan; only my view, and maybe I’m unusually frail, but I don’t see celebrancy as suited to full-time, every day of the week work. We need to be reflective, we need to focus on one family at a time. Jonathen’s fee seems entirely reasonable for a really good, unforgettable funeral.
    Mr XX generalises, presumably from his own part of the country. He seems resdy to generalise about the entire country. Families in his area are getting a raw deal, if his observations are fair. I suggest Mr XX follows James’ sage and elegant advice.

  17. Kathryn Edwards

    Wednesday 8th February 2012 at 10:27 pm

    ‘Worth their weight in flowers’: what a gorgeous concept, dear poetic James!

  18. Vale

    Wednesday 8th February 2012 at 10:26 pm

    Tell you what, good or bad, it levels the playing field a bit.

  19. Wednesday 8th February 2012 at 10:12 pm

    I am truly astonished that The good mr xx suffers and puts up with such a low level of performance from celebrants that appear to dominate in his neck of the woods. Especially ssince he recognises a top class one (see ‘Kathryn’, above). Just get rid of the duffers!
    There are others out there! Celebrants who think, care co-create, and deliver a fantastic, personal, devotional service. Go search, research, bring them in by taxi, pay more if you have to – it’s a spit of the total cost: and if it’s the difference between a funeral the family remember with warmth, or with indifference or worse, it it worth every penny to them, and to you, Mr XX.
    Good celebrants are worth their weight in flowers.

  20. Jonathan

    Wednesday 8th February 2012 at 10:12 pm

    And yes, Kathryn, it is was a serious error of judgement on the part of the early funeral celebrants – correct me if I’m wrong but I believe it was the Humanist Association – to invite comparison with (or rather comparison to, in many ways) a religious service by adopting the same fee structure. We still have to explain that what we do is not something that it is not, instead of being able to describe what it is, thereby only colluding with the default position that we are trying to depose from its spurious throne.

  21. Jonathan

    Wednesday 8th February 2012 at 10:03 pm

    Mr XX, you paint a depressing picture of the average celebrant. I’d be interested to hear others-in-the-trade’s views; I suspect your experience may not be unique, alas.

  22. Mr XX

    Wednesday 8th February 2012 at 9:17 pm

    You sound like a very exceptional celebrant Kathryn. I’m afraid that my observations fairly represent current practise in the funeral process. The bereaved are paying too much for a truly terrible service. It’s rubbish.

  23. Kathryn Edwards

    Wednesday 8th February 2012 at 7:36 pm

    I’m with Jonathan here: co-creating two funerals a week would be more than enough at the level of depth and thoroughness that I choose. Mr XX’s account of someone doing ten a week is truly mind-boggling: such a practice would need to be formulaic and in a tight geographical radius. My head explodes at the very thought of it.

    There’s a lot of reflection and rumination, to be sure. And visits (in my practice, invariably more than one) to various of the bereaved. I sometimes participate in activities involving the dead person: dressing the body, say, or sitting with it, or decorating the coffin. Making the order of service, perhaps, or hunting down a reference to something. All of which means that I am more than a mouthpiece on the day of the funeral.

    There’s rather more to a non-religious celebrant’s job than reading a set text from a book and inserting a name here and there. In my opinion it’s unfortunate that non-religious celebrants ever used church funeral fees as a reference-point; the jobs are entirely different.

  24. Mr XX

    Wednesday 8th February 2012 at 6:48 pm

    Very interesting comments.

    My local non attached Minister, currently charges £140 for a service at the local crem. In common with the other one we use, he only ever phones the family in advance of the day and often make a service last just 15 or so minutes.

    Most local civil celebrants charge £180 plus, but do usually go and see the family first. One very in demand local woman, is certainly doing up to ten funerals in a typical week. A nice living?

    Local clergy, (C of E or Catholic) are also usually phone only merchants. I see and hear little evidence from any of them (or families) that pastoral care is being offered or given, except in the most exceptional circumstances.

    In my honest opinion, the fee paid is for the journey to and from the crem, the time taken on the phone and making a few notes. Then of course, the 15 – 20 mins taking the service in the crem.

    Sadly I do not believe anyone I see taking funeral services is providing a good or fair service to the bereaved families I serve.

  25. Jonathan

    Wednesday 8th February 2012 at 6:32 pm

    I charge £185 for celebrancy; a fiver above your max, GM, and it’s still only £11 an hour after an average of a hundred miles travelling (£20’s worth of petrol in my car, not counting wear and tear), at fifteen hours of work per funeral.

    If I were ABLE (thanks, church of England!) to charge a fair and realistic fee, it’d have to be at least £250, which would mean £25k a year before tax at two funerals a week. Even that’s not a slab of cash by any standard (certainly not a funeral director’s or a florist’s or a coffin manufacturer’s or a memorial mason’s…).

    I couldn’t do three funerals every week, though, as they would all suffer from neglect – the fifteen hours doesn’t include the ruminating over coffee, the thinking about wording a committal to follow a Shakespeare quote while cooking dinner, the having it all simmering in the back of my mind for the five to ten days from the funeral director’s first call, the sense of unfailing duty to this family who are looking to you to hold it for them, and the rest. A celebrant is a commissioned artist, not a purveyor of goods, and if a funeral director sees only paint drying in the result… well, at least he’s not standing outside the crematorium door waiting for the ‘doors open’ light and having a fag while gossiping with the attendant.

  26. Wednesday 8th February 2012 at 2:42 pm

    I like that, Bryan, excellent scheme – pay by results. Minimum fee, for turning up and being able to walk and talk – national minimum wage. Max £180, with discretionary bonuses if the family wish (or “tip,” as one might say.)Judgement to be made by family ONLY. There are excellent FDs who take an active and critical interest in the ceremony, and others who could be watching paint dry. Mind you, perhaps they sometimes have to do so…

  27. Wednesday 8th February 2012 at 12:17 pm

    Personally I think they should be paid by performance. If the service is rubbish and just read out of a book I could have got a spotty youth to do that at £6 an hour. If the service is brilliant, they’ve met the family, spent time personalising the service and are going to follow up afterwards then they deserve every penny of the £120-180 range we tend to see.

    As I’ve said before it’s more about matching the right celebrant to the family.

  28. Wednesday 8th February 2012 at 10:18 am

    All the while your bank manager is considering becoming an undertaker…

  29. Ariadne

    Wednesday 8th February 2012 at 10:16 am

    Ah Gloria.
    Thank you. That quick slab thing made me consider a quick slap.
    I keep writing other things and deleting them. And my bank manager would much prefer me to be a florist. I can hear him weeping from here.

  30. Wednesday 8th February 2012 at 10:05 am

    Oh, while I’m banging on, why charge more for weddings than funerals? I’d expect at least parity. What does this say about the value (as opp the cost) of funerals in our culture?

  31. Wednesday 8th February 2012 at 10:02 am

    Quite so, GM, and Simon offers a prime opp to address prejudice and ignorance, which is quite widespread in the industry — “What, a hundred and odd quid for 20 mins work? Money for old rope, etc.”

    And he has also raised this ticklish matter of commercialism. Lots of funeral directors think it wrong of secular celebrants to plunder the bereaved as they do, the avaricious swine. Feast on the irony!

    Why does the Church charge anything for officiating at funerals?

  32. Wednesday 8th February 2012 at 9:27 am

    I’m all for cats among pigeons, but for any of the good old General Public out there, arguments sometimes need to be made, points answered, I guess!
    I have just excommunicated Simon from the Way of the Singing Crystals….

  33. Wednesday 8th February 2012 at 8:11 am

    Ain’t it good to have Simon back? He’s the classic cat among pigeons.

  34. Wednesday 8th February 2012 at 8:08 am

    I was going to say something along the lines of “you’re just a disbursement anyway” but thought I’d better keep the equilibrium after Simon’s post above mine!

  35. Tuesday 7th February 2012 at 11:11 pm

    Kingfisher, you have clearly never seen the look of disapprobation on an undertaker’s countenance when you say you’re a few quid more than a vicar. It’s the hobble of being a disbursement. Flarze aren’t.

  36. Tuesday 7th February 2012 at 10:53 pm

    Simon, it works both ways. “They” (i.e. we celebrants) don’t have a church to support, but then vicars are on a stipend or salary of some kind, I believe. Celebrants only get their fee, which I would say for a day and half’s work is hardly a princely sum. And the Church does not provide ongoing solace and care when a vicar turns up at the crem having not met the family, or only spoken to them briefly on the phone.

    But actually these arguments are probably a waste of time. The fact is that whoever provides the celebrancy/minister role is paid a small fraction of the total funeral fee – often less than the flowers, that may be looked at for 25 minutes only, and not much more than a newspaper announcement. Is this a sensible priority?

    If you think we do this for a quick slab of cash in the backet pocket, Simon, it may be you don’t know much about the work involved. For example, there isn’t a “national rate,” though it’s no secret – ranges from about £130 – £170. Perhaps you are hostile to non-ordained celebrants in general and feel funerals should only be taken by clergymen. I can’t otherwise see any visible means of support for your argument.

    I’ve a lot of respect for effective C of E ministers, priests, celebrants etc. It’s a difficult job, if it’s well done. It is not spectacularly well-paid, whether you’re a priest or a self-appointed minister of the Way of the Singing Crystals of Betelgeuse.

  37. Tuesday 7th February 2012 at 10:46 pm

    Simon, I take your point that secular celebrancy may not be a valid commercial activity.

    If it isn’t… what about funeral directing?

  38. Tuesday 7th February 2012 at 9:22 pm

    Charles, I’m not sure that £58 is wildly significant on a £3K funeral bill, it’s maybe more the message that hiking a fee by 50+% is acceptable in the current climate?

  39. Simon irons

    Tuesday 7th February 2012 at 9:05 pm

    Oh and lets not forget that the Church provide on going pastoral care and a place of solace in which to reflect.
    At the Christmas memorial service at my local c of e church I met a family who had opted for a none religious funeral service for the very person they were in Church to remember……… No admission fee at the door………

  40. Simon irons

    Tuesday 7th February 2012 at 8:54 pm

    How much is the national price for a “funeral celebrant” or “humanist” I don’t think I have ever seen one published and it’s always hit and miss….. I have certainly paid as much as I have to the Clergy and They have no Churchto support ….. Just a quick slab of cash into the back pocket.

  41. Tuesday 7th February 2012 at 7:48 pm

    Thanks, Kingfisher – I was on the point of taking the heat out of the piece having just re-read the story myself.

    I can’t see funeral directors being at all pleased at seeing an ancillary service adding so much to the bill.

  42. Tuesday 7th February 2012 at 7:03 pm

    Just to clarify, the fee includes light and admin, but not heat, according to the article, which makes sense.

    The current £102 is what a vicar charges whether the funeral is in church or at a crematorium, which would tend to suggest that the £160 will apply to both next year.

    ‘Tis a big hike! If the C of E can raise prices by over 50%, just think what funeral directors can do!

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