Charging Visitors: Church or Tourist Attraction?

(PHOTO: COURTESY OF NORTH END WATERFRONT)Old North Church in Boston

It's been controversial for years, though many visitors to the famous cathedrals are used to buying a ticket.

Now, the trend toward charging admission is spreading to historic parish churches.

Among the latest churches to charge visitors is a notable Episcopalian church in Boston, the Episcopal Church's official mouthpiece reported.

Old North Church was made famous by Paul Revere's Midnight Ride to warn colonists about the impending march by British soldiers to Lexington and Concord on the eve of what became the American Revolution in 1775. As Longfellow immortalized in his poem, "One if by land, and two if by sea."

The 18th century building is still an active house of worship, but the congregation is no longer able to support the significant costs associated with a building predating the country's independence.

The church receives approximately 500,000 visitors a year, according to its own figures.

"That's a lot of wear and tear on the building," Old North's rector, the Rev. Stephen Ayers, told Episcopal News Service. "We've managed as long as we can by cutting corners, but that's not enough to keep the place going."

Hundreds of other congregations across the United States face the same issue. This is particularly true in some of the older denominations that are more likely to have congregations worshipping in historic buildings.

Making it even more difficult are court challenges against the use of government funds to preserve historic churches.

Tickets to Old North will cost $8 for adults, $6 for senior citizens and students, and $4 for children.

Spires and Crosses, a travel column exclusive to The Christian Post, is published every week. Follow @dennislennox on Twitter.

Dennis Lennox writes about travel, politics and religious affairs. He has been published in the Financial Times, Independent, The Detroit News, Toronto Sun and other publications. Follow @dennislennox on Twitter.