Christ Church Luton has become one of the first churches to offer its building for coronavirus testing.
Located in Chatham, Kent, the church building has two parts. The bottom floor is being used for testing and the top level continues to serve as a place of worship for broadcasting services and private prayer during the second lockdown in England.
Speaking to Premier, Rev Andrea Leonard, the priest in charge, said that - after praying - the congregation felt it was the right thing to do.
"The PCC (Parochial Church Council) chatted about it, prayed about it, and we decided this was a way that we could serve the people of Luton."
Medway Council decided to create a walk-in testing centre as 50 per cent of the community don't have any independent means of transport. The centre allows anyone with symptoms to be tested without having to travel long distances. It is the first testing centre in Medway and the first church in the Diocese of Rochester to open its doors for this purpose.
Loving life, loving and serving the people of Luton. So today the big build of the walk in testing centre. Sections...Posted by Christ Church Luton on Dilluns, 9 de novembre de 2020
When asked about safety concerns, Rev Leonard said that church-goers were initially worried, but that nobody had reacted adversely and added: "Everyone understands this is a good thing."
However, some conversations with the Government about money were necessary. The church offered its building free of charge on the condition that the higher utility bills, which the church could not afford, would be covered.
"We couldn't possibly subsidise them in any way with the heating" Rev Leonard added. "We've turned on our heating for them because we don't want the staff to get cold but we said you [will] have to pay us each month because [the bill] will be over £1,000 a month...and we don't have the resources to pay that. So, we're just praying our way through" Rev Leonard added.
Rev Andrea Leonard wants to encourage other churches to follow suit.
"If you've got a building that lends itself to being completely closed off from the areas that you need for either live-streaming worship or being open for private prayer, then do it."
Earlier this week, the Government set out a mass testing campaign in Liverpool and announced it will be extending the same programme to other parts of England.
"The programme that they're doing in Liverpool, where you can just go and get tested, if they roll that out across the country, then they're going to be begging for spaces. Churches will be an ideal place because they're big enough."
The testing centre will be operational for three months but this could be extended by a further three months.