Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
I'm 100% against charging fees. Asking people to pay the sexton for their time is one thing; but "sacrament fees" are completely against our understanding of the availability of the sacraments. And I don't buy the, "that's what you get for going to the Cathedral," argument; if that's your closest Orthodox church, you should be able to get your sacraments there for FREE, not, "$500 minimum stewardship or $1,500 fee."
No disrespect, but have you seen the kinds of weddings that are generally performed at this cathedral? They are often high dollar. People chose this particular church, not out of locality or geographic circumstances, but rather an ostentatious display
of family wealth and social status. This is precisely why beautiful cathedrals were NOT intended for parish weddings, but rather those liturgical services in relation to official church business or in relation to the Bishop. The grandeur of these kinds of churches not intended to facilitate showing off by wealthier parishioners but as it has been said, for the glory of God in particular circumstances where this kind of display is appropriate. High holiday services with a lot of bishops or ranking clergy come to mind, but local weddings for the wealthier families who desire such a settings, well, honestly I am sure they could easily pay even large fees for the services of this building. The same with family baptisms and funerals. There is a plethora of local Orthodox parishes here, but many jurisdictions use this cathedral (we had an Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church wedding there a few months ago, needless to say they went all
out) just for this kind of use, to show off, and that is fine, but for those who want that certain
kind of setting for certain
kinds of reasons can surely afford certain
kinds of fees.
Further, your gripe is running on the assumption that this church may very well turn away the baptism or funeral or small wedding of one if its local parishioners if they do not have the money, and that is not fair. Did you personally ask the clergy there about this? In Orthodox we implement the rules according to the individual needs of the laity in direct relationship with their Father-Confessors and clergy. The clergy will make many necessary adjustments when needed. Some people will be baptized without years of catechism, some may be allowed to receive the Holy Mysteries without Reconciliation. We are not legalistic. That being said, I am sure that if the scenario you presented about there be no other local options (and I am from Los Angeles here, I can assure you that is simply not the case
) and also a lack of available funds by a couple looking to get married there, then perhaps the priests will make exceptions. But if you want to bring in your extended family and 3000 guests and pull up to the service in white, horse-drawn carriage, maybe you can also afford a relatively small fee for the nice setting?
The overwhelming majority of sacramental services performed at that Cathedral there are by wealthy families seeking to show off their socio-cultural and economic status, and so should the Church just take a loss so these people can show off? Should the majority of us laity giving tithe support the vanity of others? Or is asking a fee actually adding that bit of necessary and neglected humility
to the service? We are Orthodox, we should take it all in the spirit of humility. If God is insistent that a person be married in that particular Cathedral, I am more than sure He can make it able, even if the money pops up in the mouth of a fish or simply the priest forgoes the fees at their own discretion. We receive the Sacraments in the grace and Will of God, not ourselves, so we must accept and embrace them however God sends them to us. If God wants us to get married, or baptized or buried in another church for a lack of money, who are we to complain against God?