A NATIONAL PROGRAMME to help the clergy protect themselves against violent crime is to be made available to clerics and dioceses across England and Wales. It comes from the National Churchwatch co-ordinator, Nick Tolson.
Mr Tolson devised the programme, “Clergy Lifestyle Theory”, after the Church in England and the Church in Wales asked him to find ways of helping the clergy stay safe after the murder of a priest, the Revd Paul Bennett, earlier this year (News, 23 March). This followed at least four other such cases in a decade. The advice can be downloaded from National Churchwatch’s website.
Mr Tolson recommends that the clergy should wear clerical collars only when on duty, and then only when accompanied by someone else. Another safety measure was to take down the name of “Vicarage” or “Rectory” from outside the clergy home. “Local people will know where the clergy live if they need them.”
“I just want to get the debate going, especially about the collar and the vicarage. If clergy are wearing their collar, they should have someone else with them. Criminals will concentrate on the collar.”
When the clergy met someone, they should ensure that it was when there were “guardian angels” around — other people just cleaning the church would do, he said.
The Bishop of Ripon & Leeds, the Rt Revd John Packer, welcomed the move on Tuesday. “National Churchwatch have made a valuable contribution to the continued debate about clergy safety. Whilst not all their suggestions will be acceptable to individual clergy, they are right to point out that we can all take active steps to become more security conscious. Active security systems are valuable, and individual interviews best take place when others are around.”
But risk was integral to ministry, the Bishop said. “Many parish priests want to be available, want to be seen around the parish, and would probably oppose suggestions to make the vicarage more anonymous.”