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Flags on a Church Flagpole and in Church

The Earl Marshall has issued a warrant in relation to the flying of flags in churches and this, amplified, is presented below.

What

The correct flag to fly on a church of the Church of England is the Cross of St George with a small shield of the diocesan arms in the canton (i.e. the quarter in the upper hoist of the flag).

It is improper to fly the Union Flag (or Union Jack), whether flown the right way up or the wrong way up.

When

Flags may be flown on festivals and other holy days at the discretion of the Incumbent.  Note that Christmas and Easter are seasons rather than individual days.

When flown at Christmas, flags should be hoisted late on Christmas eve and flown until the Feast of the Presentation, or if preferred until the Feast of the Epiphany.

When flown at Easter, flags should be hoisted late on Easter eve and flown until the day of Pentecost.

Flags may not be flown during Holy Week.

In general flags should not be flown from churches on the State's flag days - even on the Queen's  birthday.

How

In general, flags may not be flown at half-mast.  The Christian faith holds that after this life, we enter a new life.  The Christian Church celebrates death as "birth into heaven", it is not therefore appropriate to fly flags in such a way as to suggest mourning.

It is possible that there may be exceptional days of mourning and penitence, but these will be individually advised by the Archbishop, Bishop or Vicar, in which case the following guidance may be of use:

"Half-mast" is roughly one flag's height down from the top of the mast.

The flag should be raised right to the top first, and then lowered - otherwise it is not half-mast, it has just been raised improperly. Likewise, at the end of the day the flag should be raised before being lowered.

"Half-mast" comes from the days when, after a battle, the victor's flag would be displayed above the losers.  The space above the lowered (half mast) flag dates from the time when notable people had their own flag, to show that the person who's flag is flying has lost the battle of life; death has won, and the empty space is for death's flag.

Flags in Church

The Liturgical Adviser to The Royal Army Chaplains' Department offers the following information:

"Note that British Legion and Regimental Association Standards are not to be confused with Regimental Colours which are presented by the Sovereign and Consecrated by the Chaplain-General in her presence.  Colours and Guidon are placed on the altar - all other flags are stood near the altar."

More information

More information about Flags and the protocol regarding Flags in non-Church buildings may be found here.

A comprehensive database of world flags may be found here.

Copyright © 2005-8, Fr John Hadjioannou