This letter was written after news broke that the Cathedral Church of St. Peter & Paul in Washington was offering advance tickets to some of its holiday services for a fee of $7. The Cathedral has since walked this back, saying that the $7 is an "optional offering" to defray the cost of the reservation system.
The Cathedral Church of St. Peter & Paul, Washington DC
Woke up to discover that the Cathedral is once again taking the Internet by storm, and not in a good way. There are arguments underway on both Reddit and Facebook about the Cathedral's decision to charge admission for holiday services, with comparisons to indulgences and pointing out that it puts the Eucharist out of reach of many Washingtonians.
I understand this is not a new thing, but apparently the phrasing is different, or it has just caught the public's attention. While neither I nor those taking part in these discussions have much background as to what led up to the decision, the idea of charging to attend a service is anathema to me and--I suspect--to most Episcopalians. Surely you could find a better way to manage this... such as taking reservations with a standby line to compensate for the inevitable no-shows, or reserving the front half for your members?
I also understand that the Cathedral is also a tourist attraction and can't count on regular support from a lot of the people who come through its doors. However the same is true in New York and--while St. John's does rather aggressively enforce an admission "donation" which is now up to $15--I have never been asked to pay to attend a service. Again they might be able to offer you ideas as I know they issue advance passes for the St. Francis celebration, but--as far as I know--they don't charge for it.
The argument was made that this is for crowd control. Would that we had this problem in most of our churches! And hearing that our "mother church" is once again generating public outrage by its decisions, you aren't doing the rest of us any favors in our effort to get there.
The Cathedral has--right or wrong--claimed a status beyond that of most metropolitans by nature of where it is and the events that have taken place there. With that comes a responsibility in that your actions have implications across the wider church. The Max Lucado incident stirred up a lot of angst for the LGBTQ community, many of whom are refugees from the very brand of Christianity he represents. I was grateful that you acknowledged that in your reply to my message at that time. However, You have once again, in my opinion, been reckless with that responsibility. I work very hard (volunteering) to try to keep my parish's doors open/lights on by trying to convince an increasingly jaded and secular public that the Episcopal Church is a good place to be. Incidents like this just make that work even harder.
Diocese of Newark
CC. The Rt. Rev. Marian Edgar Budde, Bishop Diocesan