Comments: Government reports on church buildings

I have some sympathy with the author's intentions, and I can see that in some, limited, circumstances, revitalising a church building by developing it a as multi-use community space may be entirely possible. But I am not sure that this is anything more than a very limited panacea.

It seems to me that the main problems are practical. For any community space to be viable it needs good car-parking, good toilets, and good heating. In my neck of the woods almost every village has a church that lacks those necessities and a village hall that ticks all the boxes. So why would the community use a cold, draughty church building with no toilets when when they can use a warm village hall instead.

I often feel that our direction of movement should be in a direction opposite to that stated in the report. Could we not start to hold our services in village halls (with a bit of suitable stage management), and see if services conducted in a warm, welcoming, accessible environment enlarges the congregation. It is not unusual in urban settings to set up "church" in coffee shops, disused warehouses and cinemas. So why not in village halls in the countryside?

Posted by Simon Dawson at Saturday, 30 December 2017 at 6:36pm GMT

It's all the sort of thing that many rural worshipers would like to see, and many have spent decades fighting to get the changes made. There are plenty of very small communities without a hall where this could be used if we could: get rid of pews, have mains water laid on and in some cases get electricity into the building.

But I agree with Simon, we are looking at this the wrong way and we need to think about which buildings are more suitable for worship. Our parish church was demolished and rebuilt in the late 1700's as the old one was in a state of disrepair. You can only hope for such forward thinking in the future, and a realization that we are not a buildings preservation organization; however historical and beautiful they are. Our predecessors built for a purpose and we should do the same.

Posted by Lavinia Nelder at Sunday, 31 December 2017 at 6:14pm GMT

So, in essence, the Government would rather like to have a network of cheap, community spaces which are paid for by worshippers, past and present, and not out of any taxes.

Posted by Kate at Sunday, 31 December 2017 at 6:22pm GMT

A very good article:

Posted by Richard Grand at Sunday, 31 December 2017 at 11:48pm GMT

In essence, the great and good of the heritage world (who made up all the members of this group alongside one Bishop and one Dean) are deeply worried that the first half of the 21st century might see the loss of many unaffordable ancient parish churches (75% are listed buildings, 45% of Grade I listed buildings are parish churches) just as the first half of the 20th century saw the loss of many unaffordable country houses. Their best shots are (1) that developing the widest possible uses (which will differ substantially in the different contexts) will maximize income and public engagement and (2) diligence in routine maintenance will reduce (or even, they hope, eliminate) the need for unaffordable substantial repairs in the future. They don't display a great deal of confidence in and hardly talk at all about praying communities and 'kingdom seeking', but then, as I began by saying, this is a heritage industry report not a Christian one.

Posted by Peter Mullins at Monday, 1 January 2018 at 4:10am GMT

"Heritage industry" is a biased, and silly description. The National Trust and the various church heritage bodies do a wonderful job with the help of many volunteers and generous donations - they are not an "industry". I for one find God more in a beautiful, unspoilt historic church building - what the Homily calls "the house of God" and "temple of the Lord" -(as well as in natural beauty that is reflected in the finest architecture) than in services where one encounters nonsensical and nagging - and threatening sermons (all too common in my Diocese of Sydney), banal choruses, and chummy exchanges of "the Peace" not always followed up by welcome outside. God is not only interested in ecclesiastical doings. I am glad when a church can be open and where one can find some quietness (less and less found in service time on Sundays) and perhaps light a candle, and sit and try to listen for God. An Australian poet, James McAuley, wrote "set pools of silence in this thirsty land" and the English John Betjeman and the Welsh R.S.Thomas also have something tell us. In the mean time, from this grumpy old man, best wishes for a happy new year, with many thanks to TA -but also best wishes a merry Christmas on January 7th for the many Christians who will celebrate it then - some sadly unlikely to be "merry" in lands plagued by the persecution of Christians, war, violence, homelessness and hunger - including the Coptic Orthodox and other Middle Eastern people there, merry in the future we pray, and a merry Christmas for those who have been able to flee to Australia and elsewhere, some of whom I encounter on the wards every week. Let's think of them on the 13th Day of (our) Christmas and the 1st of theirs.

Posted by John Bunyan at Wednesday, 3 January 2018 at 4:36am GMT

I admire and value the heritage industry and can't think why correctly pointing out that the membership of the working party and their conclusions strongly reflects its perspective should be thought either biased or silly - but, heigh ho, at least I didn't accuse anyone of being nonsensical, nagging, threatening, banal or even chummy!

Posted by Peter Mullins at Wednesday, 3 January 2018 at 5:15pm GMT
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Please note that comments are limited to 400 words. Comments that are longer than 400 words will not be approved.

Cookies are used to remember your personal information between visits to the site. This information is stored on your computer and used to refill the text boxes on your next visit. Any cookie is deleted if you select 'No'. By ticking 'Yes' you agree to this use of a cookie by this site. No third-party cookies are used, and cookies are not used for analytical, advertising, or other purposes.