'It is possible your church could be the target of a terror attack': CofE responds to shock new warning

The Church of England has published new security guidance for church visitors and staff as experts warned places of worship are not sufficiently prepared for a terrorist attack.

It comes after a new raft of security advice published by the Home Office last week warned 'crowded places and places of community significance are often the target' of 'an increase in terrorist activity both at home and abroad'.

The new government guidance tells church leaders: 'It is possible that your place of worship could be the target of a terrorist incident. This might include having to deal with a bomb threat or suspicious items left in or around the area.

'In the worst case scenario your staff and congregation could be killed or injured, and your premises destroyed or damaged in a 'no warning', multiple and coordinated terrorist attack.'

It comes after security consultant Nick Tolson, who advises churches and cathedrals on protection, warned a tiny minority had effective security.

'Security has been incredibly neglected by places of worship over the past decade despite plenty of warning signs that they need to start taking it seriously and putting in place practical procedures to try and reduce the risk to people who work and attend churches in the UK,' he wrote in the Church of England newspaper.

'Over the last decade I have visited almost every cathedral and can count on one hand the number of churches that actually have effective security that does the job.'

The Dean of Westminster Abbey, Dr John Hall, acknowledged the threat against places of worship but insisted security had been taken seriously for the last 10 years.

But he said it would be wrong to 'turn the Abbey into a fortress'.

He wrote in a blog post: 'We know that the Abbey is not immune from attack. We need it to be open and welcoming, but also safe.'