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Churches urged to spring clean their vestry cupboards

Updated guide aims to help churches manage their records – and recycle what is not needed


A guide to help parish churches sort out bulging cupboards of dusty records or memory-strained computer systems has been published by the Church of England today.

Keep or Bin..? The Care of Your Parish Records is designed to help clergy and parish officers to understand which records need to be kept by the church, which should be sent to the local archive centre, and which can be disposed of or recycled.

The advice, originally published in 1995, has been overhauled to include new guidance on the implementation of the Data Protection Act alongside other legislative changes, as well as to reflect the shift toward electronic storage of information.

Since it was first published, the booklet has met high demand from parishes keen to keep on top of their paperwork. Records include lists of marriage banns and baptisms, minutes from parochial church council meetings, inventories of church property, and insurance information. The guide includes the answers to questions such as:

  • for how long do we need to keep bank statements?

  • should we keep copies of our service sheets or weekly pew sheets?

  • how can we store paper documents to safeguard their preservation over time?

  • how should we go about backing up our computer system?

  • what can be safely recycled and what needs confidential disposal?

Keep or Bin..? will help parishes develop a consistent approach to the treatment of church records, with the benefit of advice from specialists in the field of archive management, including the National Archives, County Archives, and the Church of England Record Centre.

Declan Kelly, Director of Libraries, Archives and Information Services for the Archbishops’ Council, says the guide will help the Church to preserve a record of its local ministry: “There is a wide diversity of approach to the storage of records across the Church. We hope that this guide will help parishes build a systematic approach into their planning. A little thought and preparation today will leave a significant legacy for tomorrow’s generations of administrators and researchers – and help protect today’s church legally and financially.”

Keep or Bin..? The Care of Your Parish Records will be updated regularly to reflect legislative changes and is available for free download at:



Daily Digest