Offering Sanctuary enables and encourages pilgrims to stay in your community by providing low-cost accommodation with a high-impact experience.
Churches provide a unique quality of sleep; elevated accommodation for spiritual sanctuary for the soul. Therefore this also aligns in an unexpected way with each church’s purpose of being a general place of sanctuary. Village halls, farm barns, bothies and other community places can also offer rest to pilgrims fulfilling a practical need that allows everyone to make pilgrimage, whatever their circumstances.
The Benefits of offering Sanctuary:
For the Sanctuary
Generate an income, through donations, by creating a complementary use for churches, halls and empty buildings. Improve security; occupation of otherwise empty buildings reduces anti-social behaviour and vandalism. Improve wellbeing; helping others can benefit our own mental health, reducing stress, improving mood, self-esteem and happiness. For those centres already involved in the project, the experience of providing sanctuary has been incredibly rewarding.
For the Community
Drive footfall to local businesses and facilities, access a network of pilgrims and help to sustain and grow the rural economy. Allow more people to stay in your community without losing housing to other forms of accommodation. Share and celebrate the places that make your village special, connecting with other communities. Enrich your community; connect with different people who value what you have to offer.
For the Pilgrim
Fulfill a practical need, providing a low-cost place to sleep, where using conventional accommodation could be cost-prohibitive for many, especially on the longer routes. Connect pilgrims to the community in a meaningful way, allowing them to appreciate and directly contribute to places that offer hospitality. Facilitate the experience of a unique form of rest, adding quality to their pilgrimage.
How does it work?
Pilgrims register with the BPT, ensuring that anyone using Sanctuary is genuine and traceable. They are then given access to all the Sanctuary information, being able to find places on particular pilgrimage routes, or search via a map. Pilgrims contact Sanctuaries to book directly, via phone, email or booking form.
Sanctuaries have their own individual entries on our website. They include detail on what facilities are available, how to book, when they can stay and any restrictions. Sanctuaries have control over what and when they provide. There is a lot of flexibility to ensure it works for you and your location’s requirements, and we can help you put together everything you need.
Sanctuaries do not pay anything to register with us, and we do not take a share of any pilgrim donations.
Will it affect our insurance?
You should not expect a rise in your insurance premium as a result of offering Sanctuary. Ecclesiastical Insurance Group and Trinitas Church Insurance Services – the major providers of insurance to churches in England – are supportive of the project, and have guaranteed that no additional premium would need to be charged for becoming a Church Sanctuary.
Who deals with the bookings?
Each Sanctuary will need to have an appointed contact, such as a church warden or key keeper. Pilgrims will contact them via email, phone or booking form as preferred. They will be responsible for taking bookings and liaising with pilgrims. This means Sanctuaries retain full control of bookings to work in harmony with their every day activity. There is the option to ask pilgrims to complete a booking form in advance of contacting you if you wish, but some existing Sanctuaries just ask for a call so they know someone is coming. Most existing Sanctuaries find this quite manageable, and you won’t be inundated with enquiries.
What facilities do we need?
Ideally you should have at least access to a basic toilet or composting loo. If you don’t have basic sanitary facilities, this may make you a less popular choice, but it may still be possible if facilities are available immediately nearby. Electricity, water and/or kitchen facilities are beneficial but not essential. You do not need to provide beds or bedding, refreshments or any creature comforts – unless you want to.
How do we take donations?
It’s up to you if you would like to take donations on the day or organise a method for taking digital donations ahead of time. Many places are already set up for this, but if not we can give you some advice about how to do this. We can advise you on recommended minimum donation rates, but you have control. The BPT do not take a share of the donations. You may wish to consider other ways that pilgrims can contribute if they cannot afford your recommended rate, such as litter picking your church yard or cleaning.
Can we put restrictions in place?
Most locations will have requirements around times of year, capacity, arrival/departure times etc. In addition to this, you may wish to include restrictions such as no under 18’s, no dogs, no alcohol etc. Each sanctuary should decide upon such restrictions individually, and we can let you know what other locations are already doing to help you consider what is right for you.
Safeguarding, Health & Safety and Security:
Every sanctuary must conform to the relevant requirements as laid out by its governing body, such completing risk assessments and ensuring pilgrims are included in the safeguarding policy. There are unlikely to be any additional requirements, only inclusion in what you already have in place. Sanctuaries which do not form part of an organisation may have different legal responsibilities, depending on the nature of the building. Many locations are concerned about how best to accommodate lone pilgrims, particularly lone female pilgrims, and we can share some best practice with you regarding this.
I’m interested, what next?
If you already offer Sanctuary, Champing, church sleeping or village hall sleepovers, contact us for a registration form.
If you are starting from scratch, you’ll need to have some things in place first, like permission from your governing body, and updated policies. It’s a straightforward process and we can help you.
Contact us for more information and see our starter pack below for advice on governance, operations, promotion, and a helpful checklist.