What does it cost to attend your house of worship?
September 6, 2009 1:50 PM   Subscribe

How much does it cost to attend worship/services in different religions? I recently found out that Synagogues charge an annual fee which gets you into (I think) all the regular and special services and pays for your burial costs. I was raised nominally in the Church of England and, while people were encouraged to "tithe" (ie contribute a 10th of their income) into the collection or by direct debit, there was no actual charge to be a member of the congregation. This got me to thinking, what about other religions? And I can't find the info on Google of course! Please note: I'm asking out of curiosity, not out of preference for any religion in particular or being against any religion. Just interested. And Judaism just happened to be the example that cropped up.

Quick note: I'm not interested in costs for weddings, baptisms, funerals but for attending weekly services and being a member of the congregation as an Anglican would call it.
posted by LyzzyBee to Religion & Philosophy (31 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Christian non-denominational here; athough tithing is encouraged and taught as a part of Jesus' teachings in the Bible, there is no fee to become a member or anything like that.
posted by DMan at 1:53 PM on September 6, 2009

Mormons (Latter Day Saints) are strongly encouraged to tithe. It's not mandatory, but may as well be. If a member is not regularly tithing, they may not be able to get a temple recommend, which is an incredibly important part to an active member's practice.

At the turn of the century, it was common for Catholic parishioners to 'buy a pew,' which would then be their seat for the year.
posted by moojoose at 2:00 PM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's free to be a Unitarian Universalist. However, each year we're advised of the coming year's budget and encouraged to pledge toward helping the fellowship meet its financial needs. Our particular congregation offers no guidelines as to the amount one should give, it's strictly up to the individual.
posted by padraigin at 2:04 PM on September 6, 2009

I don't think what you describe is universal among different Jewish denominations. I'd guess it is more usual in Orthodox and Conservative congregations and not at Reform temples.
posted by miss tea at 2:07 PM on September 6, 2009

Roman Catholics are not required to tithe. For people who like guidelines 10% of income is suggested. But for a religion based on the empowerment of the poor, requiring tithes would be wrong.
posted by fifilaru at 2:13 PM on September 6, 2009

Muslims don't pay anything to attend prayer services of a mosque, or be a part of it's community. However, one of the five major obligations of a Muslim is to pay Zakat - a minimum 2.5% of one's income (for those that can afford it), as charitable donation. This donation is not necessarily to a mosque - it can be to a charity, school, or some other greater need outside of themselves - it has nothing to do with attending prayers or other special occasions in a mosque.

Mosques also don't typically have "congregations," although some sects, such as Ismailis, are often a bit more rigid on who can and cannot attend services.
posted by raztaj at 2:13 PM on September 6, 2009

In my experience, to be a member of a synagogue, you are asked to pay yearly dues (and often, a building fee). But you can attend services for free.
posted by leahwrenn at 2:14 PM on September 6, 2009

I recently found out that Synagogues charge an annual fee

Not to attend services, they don't. Like leahwrenn says, you're probably confusing membership dues with ordinary attendance, which is free, in my experience.*

*except during the few peak holy days, when I've seen synagogues offer non-members tickets, since they know space is going to be a problem.
posted by mediareport at 2:39 PM on September 6, 2009

(Here's an answer you're not going to find on any major list)

Church of Satan: No regular meetings, thus no recurring fees. Free to identify in belief as one; $200 fee, once in one's lifetime, in order to register as a member with Central. The only time you'd ever have to pay again is if one decided to revoke one's membership and then decided to join again.

Special occasional meetings, official or unofficial (by members in good standing) have various costs and, as far as I know, usually cover little more than what it costs to put on. I've paid amounts from nothing or $5-$35 for special events themselves, although travel costs tend to be the most for things like this.
posted by Weighted Companion Cube at 2:40 PM on September 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

But you can attend services for free.
Well, maybe not High Holy Day services, because space is really tight at those. I think they're frequently limited to members. (I'm currently living in a town with a tiny Jewish community, though, and the only local synagogue told me I was welcome at Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashannah services, even though I'm not a member.) But in general, yeah, you don't have to be a member of a synagogue to attend weekly services there. You might have to be a member to send your kid to Hebrew School, though.
At the turn of the century, it was common for Catholic parishioners to 'buy a pew,' which would then be their seat for the year.
There were actually huge funding controversies in 19th century American Catholic parishes. I did a research paper on one in the 1830s in which the priest appears to have threatened to withhold the sacraments from parishioners who weren't paying their fair share.
posted by craichead at 2:43 PM on September 6, 2009

From what I have read you cannot be a member in the Church of Scientology without paying a fee. I understand it is a steep cost.
posted by JayRwv at 2:53 PM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

In Australia at least, an organisation doesn't count as "religious" for tax and charity purposes unless it has a) at least one building with b) regular services which c) are open to the public for free, as I've understood the rules.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 3:00 PM on September 6, 2009

Judaism here with experience from several Reform and Conservative Temples--you don't have to pay to go to most services. But you have to be a member (pay dues) or buy tickets for the "high holidays". Frequently, if money is an issue, congregations will lower your fees.

We had to be "members" while our children were in Hebrew School, (Hebrew School was an additional cost).
posted by 6:1 at 3:04 PM on September 6, 2009

I recently found out that Synagogues charge an annual fee which gets you into (I think) all the regular and special services and pays for your burial costs.

What? I worked at a synagogue for 4 years and I can tell you this is absolutely not the norm.

Anyone can walk in off the street and attend services for free, with the possible exception of the High Holy Days (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur). People come crawling out of the woodwork to attend those services, and our sanctuary couldn't fit them all. Instead of turning people away, we would rent a larger space. If you're a member (dues are generally 2-3% of your income) of course you don't have to pay to attend the services. If you're not a member, yes, you have to pay. Since we're shelling out cash to rent a space big enough to accommodate you, it only seems fair that you should help pay for it.

This was also in a huge college town, and we would let the college kids (who couldn't realistically go home for the holidays) attend for free.

Burial costs? That's a new one. It's not like we had an undertaker on staff, so I'm not sure what kinds of service oriented fees would be involved here.
posted by ValkoSipuliSuola at 3:15 PM on September 6, 2009

Re: Islam

Zakat as mentioned by raztaz above is a 2.5% tithe of wealth not income. It is also mostly for the muslim poor, not general charity.
posted by pseudonick at 3:19 PM on September 6, 2009

There is no cost for going to a Hindu temple, although there are no weekly services, as you would probably think of them. There are various ceremonies that happen during in the week, and anyone is welcome to attend and participate (the priest will bless you all the same). You can bring fruit and flowers for the priest to use in the ritual, but it is not mandatory. If you would like a specific service done for you and your family in particular, you usually have to pay a one time fee or bring in the materials necessary for the service. Typical fees are $10-25 or more if the service is long or needs special materials. Other people who happen to be in the temple at the time are more than welcome to watch and participate in your service and get blessed as well; they will not have to pay.

There are donation boxes all over the temple. It is good form to donate something if you go, but no one watches you or anything, and I have gone many times and given nothing. I'm not particularly religious, but I do like the cultural aspects of going to temple. It can be quiet there, and you don't have to spend any money just to sit and think.
posted by bluefly at 3:34 PM on September 6, 2009

Various countries have Church Taxes. To avoid them you have to officially leave the religion in question. I've a friend in one of those countries who, while still Christian, has withdrawn from the church because of the tax.

Re: Roman Catholics are not required to tithe. - in Austria the church tax goes to the Catholic church, and they don't seem to have any problem with taking the money...
posted by Coobeastie at 4:05 PM on September 6, 2009

Oh, one more thing, just like all the other churches mentioned here, while it costs nothing to just go to most Hindu temples here in the US, you can become a member if you pay an annual fee. I think the perks are mainly community ones.
posted by bluefly at 4:24 PM on September 6, 2009

The Toronto Zen Centre requests a $50/month dana from full members, but they really emphasize that they don't want anyone not attending because they can't afford it, so there's a sliding scale where necessary.

If you attend sittings regularly you're expected to become a member. There's no outside funding at the Centre, though, so dana is how it affords to operate (plus rummage sales, etc.).
posted by mendel at 4:38 PM on September 6, 2009

Quaker Meetings ask that people contribute what they can, whether they are members or attenders. Everyone is welcome.
posted by mareli at 6:01 PM on September 6, 2009

Also, at most synagogues, especially conservative and orthodox, it is customary to make a donation under a number of circumstances. For instance, family and friends often make a donation when a congregant passes away and close family may make a donation annually on the anniversary of the death in memory of the deceased. Contributions are also generally given by the family holding a Bar/Bat Mitzvah or a wedding (at my synagogue, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah family also generally pays for the Kiddush (snack time) following the service). It's also customary to make a small donation upon receiving an Aliyah, the honor of being called up to the Torah during the service to read the blessings before and after a reading. An appeal for donations is often made at Yom Kippur every year, and someone may make an appeal to purchase State of Israel bonds as well.

Pretty much every synagogue that I've ever heard of is understanding and flexible about money. Membership is generally discounted substantially for "young adults" (under 30 or thereabouts depending on the congregation). No one will turn away someone who cannot afford the standard membership rates, and often people will be asked to contribute their time in the form of volunteering in exchange for a large discount.

Basically, there's a base membership fee to "join" the community, and after that, one is expected to give what they can in money and time. Like any organization, they will regularly ask you to give more, and big donors support many who are unable to make larger contributions.

As has been said above, anyone is welcome to come and attend regular services and other events--no one is checking IDs at the door. For the high holidays (more or less 3 days a year), tickets are almost always required: free to members and a charge for non-members. Other popular events (concerts, lectures, and other non-religious services) may have tickets if needed to manage attendance. They may be available at a cost or higher-cost to non members. Generally, one would need to be a member to enroll in classes, send kids to religious school (usually there's an additional fee for this too), receive regular services/counseling with the Rabbi, etc...
posted by zachlipton at 7:42 PM on September 6, 2009

Wow - thanks everyone!

Just wanted to point out - not that anyone's been snarky but I feel a bit bad that I didn't grasp it all properly - that I got the info about synagogue fees from someone who attends a synagogue, didn't entirely make it up. Burial costs was the rabbi's fee for performing the ceremony I think (when I googled I did find that mentioned in respect of membership).

I didn't have a clear picture which is why I asked you chaps - and I do now - thankyou everyone!

Just a few religions to fill in now, I think...!
posted by LyzzyBee at 8:34 PM on September 6, 2009

For a few years I attended a UCC church in Connecticut. They requested a voluntary annual pledge of $2000.
posted by Miko at 9:47 PM on September 6, 2009

When freedom to worship revived in post-Cultural Revolution China, many temples were under the control of state monuments and antiquities management bureaux rather than independent temple committees and would charge an entrance fee which would also apply for those wishing to make offerings or hear lectures there.
This isn't traditional practice in Chinese popular Buddhism however (although donations etc. were always welcome and there are plenty of tales of greedy monks); now regular worshippers at temples that are major tourist attractions can usually get a 皈依证 (small ID card for religious worshippers; tends to be a small one-off fee of around CNY30-50 for issuing it) that gets you in without paying the entrance fee.
posted by Abiezer at 11:36 PM on September 6, 2009

If you want to consider Scientology a religion, then the total cost to reach OT VIII is over $277,000.
posted by Midnight Rambler at 7:59 AM on September 7, 2009

In the run-of-the-mill suburban Presbyterian church that I attended, there was never any fee for any service, but there was a collection plate that went down every aisle during every service. You could just pass it on, and there weren't ever dirty looks for not contributing, but it was ever-present. You could drop in a few bills, or you could put your money in a little envelope that was provided for the purpose, and write your name on it. The ushers would then convene in a little counting room and keep a record of who had paid towards their annual pledge--folks would promise to pay an amount, any amount they chose, and they'd get friendly reminders if they fell behind. It was expected to tip the minister for weddings, but not for funerals, I think.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:05 AM on September 7, 2009

There's no fee to attend Quaker (Religious Society of Friends) Meeting for Worship. There's no collection plate passed, but at the end of each Meeting someone will ask that members & attenders who are able make a contribution to the Meeting. No one is required or expected to make a contribution if they're not able.

I'm speaking as an attender of an FGC (the more common and liberal branch of Quakerism in the US), un-programmed Meeting. As far as I know FUM (more common in Latin America and Africa, more conservative, often programmed) Meetings also don't charge a fee to participate, but I can't swear to it.
posted by cheerwine at 9:25 AM on September 7, 2009

Don't know if you're interested in places outside the US, but in Germany there is a church tax for members of the the protestant and roman catholic churches. It's a percentage of the income tax, explained here. Some other countries in Europe have a similar church tax.
posted by amf at 11:44 AM on September 7, 2009

One more view - our Catholic Church did not charge for services, but if you wanted to send your kid to the parish school, there were 2 tuition levels: If you were proved to "be a member" who contributed a specific amount (based on those little envelopes that MrMoonPie describes) you get price A, if not, then the school tuition was raised by that very amount.
posted by CathyG at 5:16 PM on September 7, 2009

Hindu temples have no attendance fee. Same for Mosques (Muslims), Fire Temples (Parsis).
posted by bbyboi at 2:07 AM on September 8, 2009

The responses might be a little confusing taken all together. I think for at least most mainline Christian faiths, you'll find two forms of financial contribution: the collections plate or donation jar, passed during a service or available before/after. For these donations, any amount is acceptable, not giving at all is acceptable, and no records are kept other than the total amount collected that day by that method.

The second type is the type I mentioned - a gift in support of the church as an organization. This may take the form of a membership, a "pledge," a "tithe," or a donation. It's not much different than a donation to the annual fund or operating fund of any other nonprofit. There's an expectation that if you attend a church regularly, enjoying the benefit of its services, community, classes, notices, lousy coffee, etc., that you should in return contribute to its contined financial stability. Those who are formal members of the congregation may be asked to give at a specific level, as in the UCC example I mentioned. If you weren't a member of the congregation you might not know this, since it might be handled only once a year, spoken of mainly in committees, or done by direct mailing to members only.

And then there are fees or gratuities for services like performing rites of passage (funerals, baptisms, weddings) which are another thing.

So it may be helpful to think of the financial donation aspect of churches in these three separate streams of funding. Some churches may avail themselves of only one - say, voluntary donations on an ad hoc basis - but most of the mainline Christian churches in the US do all three.
posted by Miko at 6:27 AM on September 8, 2009

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