A significant proportion of churches are kept locked pretty well all of the time. I have made comments about this on the homepage so I won’t repeat the arguments here. The important issues at locked churches are :
- Up-to-date keyholder names, addresses and phone numbers should be displayed in a sensible location. If no phone numbers are available directions to keyholder premises are shown.
- The arrangements should produce a near-certainty of a key being available at least between 9.00 - 18.00, seven days a week.
- Obtaining a key should not involve a long drive from the church.
In my view, if all these criteria are fulfilled we are not entitled to complain. I would remark, however, that even if they are fulfilled many visitors will be deterred from visiting especially if the church is not particularly well-known. I have seen clearly distressed people in private prayer at several churches and I wonder if having to obtain a key first doesn’t rather limit access to God as well as the building!
My classifications are as follows:
4 - A busy church because of its location, historical significance or a palpably very active church community actively embraces visitors. Likely to be open at all reasonable times.
3 - I have been able to walk into the church on one or more occasions. I have no reason to doubt that access is likely to be available at all reasonable times.
2 - I have been able to obtain a key from a keyholder.
1 - I obtained access only at a second attempt.
“A” - Keyholder remained in attendance while I looked at the church. This is a mixed blessing. Sometimes the keyholder will give you insights you wouldn’t otherwise have got. On the other hand some tell you what you can read just as easily from the book! Some make you feel that you should hurry up and others hold you up while they have a good chat! On the whole I think it is beneficial. People are important as well as buildings, dammit!
Churches I have been unable to access at all because they are locked and no keyholders are displayed are listed on my Roll of Dishonour.
Please note that these classifications are usually based on a single visit by myself. The situations in individual churches can change. The overall trend, however, is to worsening access.