Dissident parishioners at a village church involved in a long-running dispute over a set of keys are being warned of possible legal action if they defy an ecclesiastical court ruling.
Officials from the Diocese of Hereford appeared to make a breakthrough in the bizarre access row at St Anne's Church in Lea Cross, near Shrewsbury, earlier this month when they managed to change the locks.
The stand-off, which dates back at least seven years, involves claim and counter-claim about who is responsible for the church's upkeep.
Within days of the locks being changed, the diocese said it was forced to increase security after the church was broken into on several occasions.
One of the four parishioners, who claim the Church of England has neglected the place of worship and that they are the real trustees, apparently admitted defying the order and breaking the locks to maintain the building, according to legal documents.
In a ruling from the Consistory Court of the Diocese of Hereford, its chancellor, Roger Kaye QC, describes the situation as "intolerable".
The lawyer, who is responsible for administering ecclesiastical law in the diocese, has now extended an order, virtually until the end of the year, for the diocese to take "all such appropriate steps" to improve security.
Anni Holden, spokeswoman for the Hereford Diocesan Board of Finance, said: "It's very sad when people don't respect a court order.
"If they are so convinced they are right they should go to the court and not break in and remove locks. The diocese has no option but to increase the security around the church."