Important Information Concerning Member Ceremonies of Significance

Church members usually look to the church for support at times of major life transition such as marriage, birth and death. During the past two years, however, it became evident that clarification was needed in two key areas: who can officiate at these events, and which principles govern the use of the building during member ceremonies of significance.

You will likely have heard that the Canada Revenue Agency does not allow charitable organizations to give any special benefits to members. This means that members are no longer able to rent the building at discounted rates. However, since ceremonies of significance are considered to be central to this organization’s charitable purpose, the church can offer the use of the building to members for ceremonies of significance at no charge. At the same time, the church still needs to pay staff to set up, host, and clean up after these events. To this end, the board recently approved a policy allowing for a modest cost recovery charge related to staffing expenses during member ceremonies of significance.

Read the policy here

The policy also outlines which responsibilities belong to the member or family, and which to the church. Please familiarize yourself with this policy, which we hope will provide needed clarity. Read the policy here, or read the paper copy in the binder containing board meeting minutes, in the foyer of the "house" side of the church building.

Also extremely important is the distinction between minister and lay chaplain for member ceremonies of significance. As per the guidelines established by the Canadian Unitarian Council's Lay Chaplaincy Committee, in congregations served by ministers, lay chaplains officiate at ceremonies of significance for non-members only. Member ceremonies of significance are conducted by the minister or their designate, and best practice is for the minister to arrange for ministerial coverage during planned absences. Further, retired lay chaplains are asked not to represent the congregation for any ceremonies of significance after their term has concluded.

We recognize that this is a departure from the way lay chaplaincy has been understood by this congregation in past years, and invite you to contact Lynn Clark, Board President, or Barb Shearer, Lay Chaplain, with any questions you might have.

wedding couple kissing on bench