Sponsored choirboys and VIP seating for St Paul’s donors
Wealthy philanthropists and companies who give money to St Paul’s Cathedral can sponsor individual choirboys and sit in VIP pews during services.
City workers brush past anti-capitalist protesters outside St Paul’s Cathedral. Photo: Rex Features
10:00PM GMT 04 Nov 2011
Two-thirds of the young choristers have their school fees paid by donors, and wear medals bearing their names at special events.
An American arm of the cathedral’s fundraising operation, meanwhile, organises glitzy dinners where tickets can cost up to $50,000 (£31,306) for two tables.
Those who give money to help restoration projects are promised they will be “greeted by high-ranking clergy” when they visit the London landmark and ushered to “reserved seating in the Choir stalls for Evensong”.
Details of the benefits received by corporate donors during church services themselves are likely to prompt fresh concerns about the close links between St Paul’s and the world of high finance.
When the cathedral authorities attempted to remove the anti-capitalist protesters camped on its steps last week, triggering three resignations, it was claimed that they were abandoning Christian ethics by siding with the rich businesses of the City.
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The outspoken cleric who stepped down over the eviction attempt, the Rev Canon Giles Fraser, said the Occupy London tent city should lead to a “historic opportunity” for the Church to “reset its relationship with the marketplace”.
Analysis of the cathedral’s accounts and marketing literature show just how close that relationship has been.
Over the past decade St Paul’s raised £40million for restoration projects to coincide with its 300th anniversary, and earlier this year held a Royal Gala Concert to thank donors. Among who gave more than £50,000 were Lloyds TSB, Goldman Sachs, UBS, Rothschild, JP Morgan and the London Stock Exchange.
Its fundraising body, the St Paul’s Cathedral Foundation, raised £1,363,252 in 2010. It is chaired by former City accountant Sir John Stuttard, who fears the protest camp will affect donations.
“Although we have not stopped fundraising completely, it’s at a slower, more measured pace because of the difficulties,” he said this week.
“I just hope the protesters pack up their tents and move away from the site.”
Other directors of the charity include the deputy president of the CBI business lobby, Dame Helen Alexander, and Lord Blair, the former Metropolitan Police commissioner.
St Paul’s Cathedral Trust in America, a charity registered in New York, received donations totalling $2.6m (£1.62m) over the past five years.
Anyone who donates more than $500 a year can join the John Donne Associates group, entitling them to “preferential seating for two at a major service at the Cathedral, including Thanksgiving”, “reserved seating for one weekday Evensong in the Choir for up to four” and “invitations to private social events in the US with visiting dignitaries from the Cathedral”.
Next year the charity is holding a benefit dinner at the Houston Country Club, Texas, where basic tickets cost $250 but where “underwriting sponsorship opportunities” include a “lead benefactor” package costing $50,000.
Companies that donate this amount will be given a “platinum-level visitor package in London”, including “behind-the-scenes tours, reserved seating in the Choir stalls for Evensong, lunch in the Crypt restaurant, being greeted an accompanied by high-ranking Cathedral clergy”.
St Paul’s also runs a school for 34 choristers, and asks for money to help pay for it in a brochure with the headline: “Can you imagine a Christmas without hearing the pure voice of a choirboy singing?”
It says that the tuition of the boys, the salaries of the vicars choral and organists, and the organisation of musical events throughout the calendar costs £1.3m a year.
The leaflet asks corporate donors and wealthy individuals to help meet a £1m “funding gap” and also to sponsor the choristers themselves.
It states: “20 of the 34 choristers are currently supported by benefactors. Medals are worn by choristers at special services reflecting support of benefactors; new medals require a financial commitment of £6,000p.a. over a minimum of six years, the usual duration of a boy’s time in the choir.”
Meanwhile the Bishop of Bristol, the Rt Rev Mike Hill, suggested that Jesus might have "probably would be camping out with the protesters" were he alive today. because of his "track record when it came to protesting against social inequality".
The Occupy London protest was given a further boost on Friday by the veteran left-winger Tony Benn.
He told a crowd of about 150 people: "The first thing they do is ignore you. If that doesn’t deal with you, they say you are mad. If that doesn’t work, they say you’re dangerous.
"Then there is a pause, and then you can’t find anyone at the top who doesn’t claim they thought of it in the first place. That’s how you get change."