On 8 November 2022, the Diocese of Manchester circulated Parish Worship in buildings neither consecrated nor licensed – guidelines from its archdeacons for parishes who are considering making a request to use their church hall for worship during the winter months as a consequence of the rise in energy costs. Based upon the requirements of Church of England Canons, these guidelines, extracts of which are reproduced below, will be of general application.
“there is a strong presumption in favour of continuing to remain church buildings and any parish seeking permission from [the diocesan Bishop] to worship in a church hall should in the first instance speak to their archdeacon.
With the level of heating costs expected this winter, some churches may consider moving worship to buildings which are more readily and efficiently heated. Any decision to move worship will need to be carefully considered, and national statutory guidance will be issued soon, which must be read in conjunction with the information below.
Canon B40 states:
‘No minister shall celebrate the Holy Communion elsewhere than in a consecrated building within his cure or other building licensed for the purpose, except he have permission so to do from the bishop of the diocese: Provided that at all times he may celebrate the Holy Communion as provided by Canon B 37 in any private house wherein there is any person sick, or dying, or so impotent that he cannot go to church’.
This means that if a service of Holy Communion were to be held in a parish hall, permission must first be obtained from the Bishop. Similarly, Canon B11 requires morning and evening prayer to be said or sung in at least one church in each benefice on all Sundays and other principal Feast Days. Dispensation from this requirement on a regular basis also requires the permission of the Bishop. The incumbent of priest-in-charge acting jointly with the PCC may request such permission from the Bishop. However, such permission will only be given where a very strong individual case is made for closure, and only after all work on other heating cost reduction measures have been undertaken.
Parishes may find the following guidelines helpful in considering the situation.
- No diocese-wide permission will be issued.
- Unless the consecrated or licensed building is in a dangerous condition, occasional offices should be held in the consecrated or licensed building which should be heated.
- Requests must be supported by a resolution from the PCC/DCC following local consultation and discussion.
- Consideration should be given to the effect of turning off heating on the fabric of the building – guidance may be sought from the DAC.
- Permission would be time limited: Ash Wednesday falls on 2 March 2023, so seems a suitable date liturgically and meteorologically.
- Permission is permission, not obligation. If the winter is mild and the consecrated or licensed building can be kept reasonably warm, it would be preferred to a non-consecrated option.
- The alternative venue should be suitable for worship, with consideration given to accessibility, furniture, lighting, acoustics and aesthetics. A risk assessment should be agreed. Where possible, live-streaming should continue.
- Attention should be given to insurance, both of the buildings and of accoutrements being carried from the church building to the alternative venue. If the policy document is not clear, the insurer should be consulted.
- Any item on the church inventory should not be removed from the church or church complex without temporary permission granted by the Archdeacon.
- Care should be taken over communicating with the local community, in order to pre-empt any objections, to reassure people that this is a temporary measure and not an attempt to abandon a consecrated building and also to inform those who might stay away from a cold church that worship is continuing.
Any request for a dispensation to worship elsewhere than a consecrated or licensed building should be made to the Bishop of Manchester. Before such an application is made, the Archdeacon appropriate to the building must be consulted.”
Footnote: Cold weather and worship
On this theme of cold weather and churches, Dr David Knight, Senior Church Buildings Officer and Acting Secretary to the Church Buildings Council, has provided the following links to national guidance issued by Church of England Environment programme and ChurchCare.
- Temporary Closure due to cold weather: This includes a summary of the legislation, and notes that the requirements of Canon B 11 can be dispensed with only in accordance with the provisions of Canon B14A Of services in churches and other places of worship; this authorizes such dispensation on an occasional basis as authorized by the minister who has the cure of souls and the PCC of each parish in the benefice acting jointly. Dispensation on a regular basis requires the authorization of the bishop, on which the Diocesan Office will advise whether this is required in specific cases.
This guidance on maintaining buildings when closed includes, inter alia: consulting the insurer regarding their requirements; compatibility with any grant/funding provisions; advice on security and frost protection, v infra; caref of organs.
- This guidance is hosted in the download section of Energy efficiency measures and goes with Energy: Economic, Environmental & Efficiency improvements and Managing the Frost Protection of Your Church during Closure.
As noted in the guidance, national statutory guidance is expected, and will be covered in a further post on L&RUK.
A bit over the top; nowhere did Jesus instruct where worship could be practised? As long as the building is clean, warm and unspoilt why is there a problem please.
The problem appears to be the extent to which incumbents intend to abide by the Canon Law of the Church of England, or not.
I think a lot will depend on the attitude of the Bishops and Archdeacons of the Diocese concerned. Whilst still requiring permission to be sought the instructions we have had seem far more sympathetic.