With the increasing popularity of Cathedral carol services would it be right to charge entry and give the money to the poor?

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Kings College Cambridge

Cathedrals and similar Greater Churches across the UK will have had thousands upon thousands of eager people through their doors in the weeks up to Christmas.  How wonderful it is too to welcome so many in the name of Jesus, preach the gospel, sing carols and share in the awesome beauty of such inspiring holy places.  BUT….

This year it occurred to me as we welcomed another thousand people to a carol service and I stood at the big west doors – are we honouring the poor?  Later on in the same service the contrast for me was almost too great to bear as I sat in the  sanctuary listening to soaring choral music of the highest calibre, dressed to the floor in a heavy gold and white  brocaded robe as one of the clergy in a church packed with people with free tickets. (our main pastoral work on these occasions is at the door keeping the peace with those who have and those who do not have tickets)  The lighting, the hundreds of candles flickering around the building bouncing off soft stone seduces our senses and our prayer is that people will be drawn into deep worship of God.   BUT there is another way to look at it….

I read this article advertising  Carols from Kings College Cambridge in The Times Saturday review (23rd Dec 2017)

This service is a particularly special one, but nearly all cathedrals do candlelit carol services in the weeks leading up to Christmas. ” and this is the bit that got me thinking (my emphasis). “You needn’t go as an act of religious devotion – you can just go to hear lovely music in an ancient building and to contemplate an ancient festival. I think children particularly enjoy flickering candles and the darkness.  There is something thrilling about going out post curfew for children.”. 

Reality hit home.  Is the Church being taken advantage of  –  an enjoyable free ride for Christmas entertainment?

Yes I am an evangelist-  what a great problem for a church to have –  too many people!!  Especially when all you read is about is doom and gloom about the Church of England going down the pan in terms of registered numbers.  Yes I want everyone to meet with Jesus but in the meantime in our culture how about suggesting a sizable donation at the point of issuing tickets? How about contactless donation points around the big churches as well as a retiring collections for non ticketed services? Think of the benefit of this financial giving for  the gritty, on the ground work of so many working on a shoestring to bring water to the thirsty, food to the hungry, freedom to the oppressed and hope to the desolate.  A possible donation of £5 at the door as people scramble out doesn’t sit easily with me knowing that the family rugby or theatre tickets probably cost £200 plus.   Many do give generously – and much is given to support mission already through retiring collections but is it enough?

My question is:

How can the church become smarter to encourage and enable generosity fully and support the poor?  Is charging ever the right answer or should we let God be God and the Spirit work in whichever way He chooses and not do anything different?  What is our accountability and responsibility in the sight of Almighty God knowing Jesus came to serve the poor?  Do add your comments to the discussion.




Author: Vicar Jane's Reflections

Vicar of Sway in the beautiful New Forest. Passionate about sharing Jesus and in the renewal and reform of the church.

3 thoughts on “With the increasing popularity of Cathedral carol services would it be right to charge entry and give the money to the poor?”

  1. When the tickets were introduced I think it was quite controversial and only accepted on the basis of their being free. Charging is a tricky one, even if the underlying motive is honourable, many, many people are deeply cynical about the church’s attitude to money/charging, to the point of feeling alienated from the church. Equally, many potential visitors are not from affluent backgrounds. Those who cannot afford to go to rugby matches, concerts, or on holidays need also to feel welcomed into The House of the Lord, and may well be more greatly blessed by the experience. Voluntary donations enable people to give according to their ability but still provide the opportunity to raise money for charity. In short I think we would not only limit our opportunity for evangelism by charging for these services, but also potentially harden hearts against the church by doing so.


    1. Thanks Rebecca. Interesting comments. There must be more creative ways of encouraging donations. I agree we do not want to harden the hearts of people but equally there are starving people and those need to be freed from injustice that Jesus calls us to help and financially this is often (note always) the key to service in His name.


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