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Parish worship in buildings neither consecrated nor licensed

First published on: 8th November 2022
The archdeacons are circulating these guidelines for those 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. Please note that there is a strong presumption in favour of continuing to remain church buildings and any parish seeking permission from Bishop David 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.

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