'Never Done That Before': Swedish Churches Facing Closure Amid Rocketing Heating Bills
Earlier, Sweden warned of looming power cuts and possible energy rationing in the coming winter amid record-breaking energy prices that prompted measures to lower electricity consumption in all spheres of life, including worship.
Faced with ballooning energy costs and unable to pay for heating bills, the Church of Sweden is closing down its houses of worship this winter.
So far, there is no aggregate figure on how many churches will be completely closed across the country. The pastorates and the congregations are self-determining and there have been no orders from the dioceses. However, it is absolutely clear that many will resort to the most drastic solution.
Among others, Skara pastorate has decided to completely close 11 of its 16 churches over the winter due to exorbitant electricity prices.
“Now we are closing completely and we have never done that before,” Provost Robert Lorentzon told national broadcaster SVT. No baptisms or funerals will be held there this winter. “We will close from All Saints until April completely, and not open them until the spring heat comes hopefully in early April,” Robert Lorentzon added.
According to Lorentzon, more pastorates will follow suit and close down. In those five churches in Skara that will be kept open, the heat will be lowered by two degrees.
In Skåne and Blekinge counties in southern Sweden, up to half of a total of 540 churches belonging to Lund diocese may close in a worst-case scenario, if electricity bills soar to over SEK 200,000 ($18,000) per “medium-sized church”, diocese engineer Andreas Månsson estimated.
Mellerud pastorate in Västra Götaland County plans to freeze four of its eleven churches to conserve energy.
“It is the first time that it has been done,” vicar Lena Hildén told SVT, arguing that it is done not only to save energy but also as an act of solidarity.
The Diocese of Gothenburg estimated that at least 40 churches will be closed for the winter.
Earlier, Sweden has warned of looming power cuts and possible energy rationing the coming winter. According to the Swedish Civil Contingencies agency (MSB), power rationing could affect traffic lights, trams, heating and communications as well as electronic locks to properties, to name a few.
5 October 2022, 06:24 GMT
Other measures being taken across the country to tackle runaway electricity prices include lowering the temperature in swimming pools and gyms and turning off saunas, ice rinks, and other “energy-intensive leisure centers.”
The Swedish government is scrambling to alleviate the economic pain resulting from sky-high energy prices. Households and companies will both be compensated with at least SEK 30 billion ($2.7 billion), outgoing Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said in late summer.
Overall, energy prices across Europe have been soaring since the EU countries unleashed self-harming sanctions on Russia, intended as “punishment” for its special military operation in Ukraine. However, Brussels's decision to throttle the influx of Russian energy spurred a wave of inflation, with record-high prices and heavy electricity bills amid a cost-of-living crisis. For instance, food prices have risen for nine consecutive months in Sweden alone.