Amongst the plethora of guidance, regulation, and advice that the Government has issued, updated and discarded during the pandemic, Comparatively little has been said about places of worship. There was the closure requirement issued on 23rd March; guidance on the management of funerals and cremations on 21st April; a sentence hinting that places of worship might be considered for reopening no earlier that July 4, in the Recovery Strategy guidelines published in May, and the creation of a Places of Worship Taskforce to look at reopening issues in Mid May. At the time of writing nothing further has appeared in public. The Established Church has been badgering for reopening to allow isolated private prayer but otherwise the church generally has been making the most of being unshackled from our buildings.
One announcement that has been made, but which many may not have widely seen, is the requirement of the Charity Commission to have registered charities report serious incidents during the pandemic. The commission issued guidance on Wednesday this week (3 June 2020) (see the document here). Why am I raising the point? Well, the document has an associated supplementary table of examples where reporting is necessary, and one of these examples cites places of worship. If you’re a trustee of a charity registered place of worship you should take a look sooner rather than later. The example of the serious incident goes like this:
The charity has stopped operating temporarily under the government’s lockdown measures, for example… the closure…. of a place of worship …. As a result of this, the charity is:
• unable to deliver vital services to at risk beneficiaries; and/or
• insolvent and/or forced to close permanently; or
• highly likely to be insolvent and/or forced to close permanently within the next 12 months
Has your foodbank or social programme been affected in this way? Are you running low/running out of financial reserves? Are you being church in a different way now? Will the prospect of conforming to the new normal be a huge stretch on a small number of people?
With God nothing is impossible, but we do have responsibilities to Government that we need to discharge along the way – check it out.
Neil Walker is a Director of several property Charities and Chair of Church growth Trust