- A rather lovely tourist attraction
- A place of divine worship (in the “holding services” sense)
- A Parish Church for the whole Diocese
- An educational establishment, particularly a schools’ resource
- A meditative quiet space
- A concert arena
- A meeting place
- A centre for musical excellence
- Storage for valuable church plate for parishes
One space can’t be all of these things at the same time. A concert arena (depending on the programme) is unlikely to be a quiet meditative space. Somewhere being used for a school’s educational event may not be available for guided tours. And so on. These different uses have different levels of exclusivity. If a concert is being held at £40 per ticket (for example that was the cost of staying overnight at the recent Winchester Organathon, raising money for a Cathedral Choral Foundation), then wherever it is held, those who have paid for the experience are not going to be happy at “their” experience being shared with those who have not paid, but have wandered in to pray, or to meet friends.
What does it say to a tourist (whether from Japan or Pontefract) if they have to pay for entry, while someone else is let in free of charge because they happen to live more locally? In thinking more about entry fees for cathedrals, I tried considering them as oversized Parish Churches. We charge for entry to flower festivals, to concerts, and to fetes/fairs (which may not necessarily be held in one of the churches). Our churches are normally locked, so no-one can get in them unless there is a service, or an event, or someone happens to be cleaning or arranging flowers or practicing the organ….
Is this where the argument around my plea falls down? That anyone from anywhere should be able to walk into a cathedral, to look at it, to sit in it, to pray in it without having to pay anything? Because that doesn’t happen in our parishes, although I am aware (and thankful) that it does in many.
So I had a very rough cut look at our finances in one parish. Just under half our income is from giving either by regular direct debt or in the plate. Chichester Cathedral (which doesn’t charge for entry, but suggests an appropriate donation) gets about 5% congregational giving, Winchester 2% and St Paul’s around 4%, Coventry about 10%. (All these figures are as far as I can determine off the relevant Cathedral report for 2010.)
So, I am wrong. Cathedrals have to focus on their visitors and their property/investments, because that’s how they survive. I don’t want to be wrong about this, because I want to be able to wander in and out of cathedrals at will. Obviously I can’t – so how can Cathedrals be slightly kinder to their praying customers? (Locked churches will be a different blog!)