The culture minister, Marianne Jelved (Radikale), announced on Friday that six churches in Copenhagen would be closed, and now the church minister, Manu Sareen (Radikale), says that even more churches may be shut down.
"There are some parishes where the church only has 200 members," Sareen wrote in a press release. "We have to discuss closures to secure that the Church of Denmark spends its resources most effectively. No one is served by empty churches."
Sareen said he could not give an exact number on how many churches might be wholly or partially shut down, but that there were at least 200 – and perhaps more – that he would be assessing.
Smaller parishes most at risk
The minister said that he has not decided if all of the 200 churches should be closed completely, but that an assessment needs to be done.
"Whether the churches should be closed completely or be used in a new way depends on the individual church," said Sareen.
It is particularly expensive to operate churches in smaller parishes with less than 200 members of the Church of Denmark (folkekirken).
At least one parish priest thinks consolidation might not be a bad idea.
“There areas in the country where you have 5 or 6 churches with tiny congregations, each being served by a priest, so it may be a good idea to look at what can be done to make things more efficient,” said Charlotte Chammon, vicar at the Nørre Herlev church near Hillerød. “The problem is that everyone thinks it is fine to close someone else’s church, just not their own.”
Copenhagen’s bishop named 14 churches for closure last spring. Six of those were shut down in Friday's decision, and two more will have their daily operations cease.
Clear guidelines missing
Sareen said that right now the ministry has no guidelines on how to close down churches and that the rules need to be clearer.
“We need to make clear rules about how a church is taken out of service in a way that benefits Folkekirken,” he said.
"We will also need to establish new churches in some areas. But the first step is that we get the rules straight on how to close down a church."
Friday's decision will lead to the closing of the following Copenhagen-area churches:
- Samuels Kirke
- Blågårds Kirke
- Utterslev Kirke
- Bavnehøj Kirke
- Absalons Kirke
- Gethsemane Kirke