Why church buildings matter today.

In a guest post, Reverend Charles Chadwick, a Friend of the National Churches Trust Church, writes about why church buildings have an important role to play in Christian mission in the 21st century. He writes in a personal capacity.

In an age marked by distraction and uncertainty church buildings speak of permanence, stability and serenity. They can serve as places to withdraw to from the over-active and anxious times we live in. They can be where the tired may rest and find peace. Bishop John Inge has written of church buildings as being places of journey, encounter, and pilgrimagei. He believes that they proclaim that God is present and active in the world, and that God is not to be forgotten. Their physical presence echoes the Hebrew word emuna with its sense of trustworthiness and reliability. In a way that cannot easily be put into words they elicit loyalty, respect, and a sense of the sacred.

They also have the capacity to gently mould within people a sense of the divine in both conscious and unconscious ways. They provide places for silence and calm, reflection and prayer. A beautiful and well cared for church can transmit something of the character of the Christian faith as well as the perception that this building is a place where God can be encountered. A sense of the holy where generations of people have engaged with God and where the distance between earth and heaven is reduced can be conveyed in historic churches. People may experience a sense of awe and reverence for the magnificence of God, or feel curious and interested in the faith on which they were founded.

The interconnectedness of place, memory and relationships

The 16,000 Anglican Parish Churches are widely recognised as places where the stories and events of people’s lives, and local communities, can be connected to the story of God’s engagement with humanity through Jesus Christ. This is evident at christenings, weddings, funerals, and Christmas. Family histories are often deeply connected with the story of their village church. The interconnectedness of place, memory and relationships often has deep significance for people. Their sheer physical presence reminds us that God took human form and presence in Jesus of Nazareth and in a subtle, almost unspoken way they remind us of the importance of the doctrines of creation and incarnation.

They have the potential to connect people with history and heritage. English people have a strong interest in the past and its physical spaces and places. This is demonstrated in the considerable growth in membership of the National Trust, which reported having 5,600,000 members in 2019, and ‘500 heritage properties’. Church buildings have the potential to act as a bridge with this facet of English life. At its simplest they are the outward and visible sign of the nation’s ecclesiastical and spiritual heritage.

Serving the common good

Church buildings have an important part to play in serving the common good. This aspect of a church building’s identity has increased in many rural communities where other village public spaces and amenities such as the shop and the pub have closed in recent times. The parish church is now often the central focus of village community life. In 2006 the Rowntree Foundation observed that faith buildings, as well as being a resource for the neighbourhood, give the faith community visibility and a platform for wider engagement. As Luke March, Chairman of the National Churches Trust, observed in 2019, “At a time when so many public buildings are closing and high

streets are losing their shops, church buildings are places where people can meet, collaborate and build community, as well as continue to worship”. The House of Good Report by the National Churches Trustii in 2020 made the point that church buildings are more than places of worship and that they provide a growing list of essential services for people in need. Their work shows, “That the UK’s church buildings are not just Houses of God. They are also Houses of Good…. Despite having to lock down, some 89% of churches continue providing local support – from online worship to delivering shopping to isolated or vulnerable people”. Interestingly the Local Government Chronicle wrote in December 2020 that Councils should make better use of churches to bring communities togetheriii

At its simplest a Christian community needs a home to meet in and a distinctive building serves this purpose well. Church buildings can be a reminder that God chooses to reveal himself in specific places, such as to Jacob in Genesis 28, to Moses in Exodus 3, and to Isaiah in Isaiah 6, and such places are deemed to be sacred and holy. Such revelations elicit a response. They witness to Christian faith being alive and often, through the windows and other physical aspects of the building and its surrounds, to the message of that faith. They have an invaluable role to play in the developing life of a Christian community for they are the designated places where the congregation, the local embodiment of Christ, comes for worship, to be taught, fed and sent out to love and serve God in the world.

Potential to attract people should not be underestimated

At a time when concern about the environment is increasing, the area around church buildings can provide a space where, through carefully managed churchyards, fauna and flora can flourish. They can offer a haven for local wildlife as well as demonstrating stonemasons’ creativity and the social history of a parish. Beautiful and artistic gravestones and well-tended graves can remind us of the value of every human life.

Church buildings deserve to be valued as historical assets that convey more than can be put into words. They have been adapted in a whole range of ways across the centuries and much creative re-ordering work is currently happening, particularly in the rural context. They can be a physical means by which communities may be drawn together, where God may be encountered, and they can be a place that cultivates a deeper sense of what it means to be truly human. Their potential to attract people, to be admired and appreciated, and to elicit affection and affirmation should not be underestimated, for it is from these that faith may well grow.

Revd Charles Chadwick December 2020

A new treatment for Death Watch Beetle

22 August 2019

In a guest post, Martin Cobbald, Managing Director of Dealey & Associates Ltd, writes about a new way to deal with Death Watch Beetles.

Like many of you, I recently saw the National Churches Trust video, narrated by Michael Palin, warning of the dangers of church dilapidation from leaking rooves, crumbling stonework and Death Watch Beetle.

Michael Palin © John Swannell
Michael Palin © John Swannell

It made me sit up because we have recently been working on a solution for exactly this kind of problem. I work for a fumigation company in Suffolk called Dealey Environmental. In our 65-year history we have maintained our place at the forefront of fumigation technology and we proudly employ the largest fumigation team in the UK.

Blueflame

Recently we have been working with a chemicals manufacturer in the Czech Republic to create the perfect building fumigant and we believe we have done it. Our friends in Czechia have followed the process devised by Nobel award winning Fritz Haber to create Bluefume, a structural fumigant for all life stages of wood boring beetle. The product was approved for use by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) late in 2016 and we are currently undertaking pilot fumigations throughout the UK.

Traditional pest control treatments for churches usually involve paint-on or spray-on wood treatments that are like creosote wood stain. They kill very effectively but they leave toxic residues in our churches for many years. Furthermore, the only parts of the wooden structure that are treated are the visible parts. Further damage could be happening in those timbers that are in the middle of the structural elements of the building that cannot be painted.

Recently we have investigated a water mill that had been treated with paint-on chemicals for Death Watch Beetles. The main shaft was a thing to behold. The apple tree felled for its installation must have been a giant. After the treatment however, the owner had heard more sounds of Death Watch and he asked us to investigate.

Death watch beetle get their name from infesting wooden coffins and making their characteristic tap-tapping overnight, as if watching over the dead.  
Death watch beetle

We used thermal imaging technology to reveal the cause, the beetles on the outside of the timbers had been killed by the paint-on treatment but the core of the shaft remained under attack from happy and healthy beetles.

It is this problem that we wish to avoid for churches. Bluefume is a non-invasive treatment- there is no drilling, cutting or any woodwork at all required. We simply sheet over the entire building and apply the gas. The gas penetrates through timbers and right into the unreachable places where the insects lurk.

The whole treatment takes about two days and does not leave any toxic residues.

The gas kills all life stages of beetles, even eggs, and is lethal to any rodents that might be lurking as well.

Bluefume is also mightily cheaper than the other structural fumigant on the market, Sulfuryl Fluoride, which is so expensive it pretty much rules out any question of its use.

We believe we have struck upon the right solution for the problem of Death Watch Beetle in churches.

For more information contact:

E-Mail:            martin@dealey.co.uk

Homepage:   www.dealey.co.uk

Articles on this blog do not constitute an endorsement or approval by the National Churches Trust of any product or service to the exclusion of others that may be suitable.

How to thrive as a Churchwarden

In a guest post, Matthew Clements, writes about his new book,  ‘Rotas, Rules and Rectors’.

In my last year as churchwarden, I decided to write a short set of helpful instructions for my as yet unknown successor , and found that after 3,000 words I had barely scratched the surface – so I decided to see if I could write a book!

One might have thought that there were many books available about being a churchwarden, but I feel that none of them really do justice to the role, as they tend to concentrate on the legalities of PCCs, elections and meetings, rather than what a churchwarden actually does.

Rotas, Rules and Rectors - Cover

Rotas, Rules and Rectors – Cover

Sixteen weeks later I had a draft of 50,000 words which was fit to send to possible publishers; “Rotas, Rules and Rectors” was  published in November 2018.

The post of churchwarden is a responsible and important one which, if done conscientiously, will augment the efforts of the clergy and encourage the congregation, thus strengthening the Body of the church.

Practical wisdom, shrewd commonsense

“Churchwardens are the great unsung heroes of the Church of England” says the Rt Rev Michael Ipgrave, Bishop of Lichfield, in his foreword to this book. “The great strength of Matthew Clements’ writing is that he sets the sometimes dry duties and responsibilities of wardenship within the warm context of human lives lived joyously and devotedly in the service of Christ and his beloved Church. All will find in this book practical wisdom, shrewd commonsense and indefatigable commitment to a noble cause.”

Roles and responsibilities

This book is my view of all aspects of the role and responsibility of being a Churchwarden. The aim of this book is threefold:

  1. To encourage existing churchwardens to approach their role with confidence, and with the knowledge that much can be achieved in their term of office.
  2. To provide detailed information on the responsibilities of churchwardens so that prospective churchwardens know the score when they are nominated. Hopefully this will help avoid the sad cases where a warden realises the full scope of the job far too late; if it deters such people from accepting nomination, that is a good thing in my view.
  3. To help incumbents get the best out of their churchwardens, by clearly understanding their respective responsibilities and working better with them.

Thriving, not surviving

Matthew Clements

Matthew Clements

The foundation of the book is my experience over twenty-two years as churchwarden (twice: 5 years and 6 years) and treasurer (5 years), each time in a different diocese. I try to detail the extensive boundaries of a churchwarden’s responsibilities and give many pragmatic examples of just what the job can entail.

Please note the sub-title of the book – “How to thrive being a churchwarden”. To merely “survive” as a churchwarden would mean that the job has probably not been done very well. Thriving is about enjoying the role, doing the best for the church and being able to see the differences you have made when you stand down. I wouldn’t deny that the role is challenging and that there are many pitfalls that await the unwary, but believe me there is much satisfaction as well.

How to order a copy

“Rotas, Rules and Rectors” is available through Troubador  who published it, and all major book sellers, but please purchase through www.beingachurchwarden.com where it is available until January 2019 for only £7.99 (£2 discount off RRP) plus P&P.

If you buy from the book’s website  all surplus revenue will go to my church’s re-ordering fund.

 

 

 

Wayne Hart – a driven young carver of stone

Before meeting Wayne Hart, I thought he was going to be much older than he was – he sounded so confident. He is in fact just over 30, but looks younger. He comes across as a highly organised, focused ardent carver of stone. He is also a typographer and sculptor.

When he carves his first last is slate: carvers tend to like slate above all else. Hart says, “I like slate because it possible to achieve very fine detail such as hairlines and serifs.”

Hart grew up in King’s Lynn and spent lots of time with his grandmother who has always enjoyed art, including calligraphy and watercolour. He and his sister would always be drawing, painting and baking when visiting her. He had an early ability in art noted in school and is an example of what you can achieve if you have a long term goal and the will and determination to aim high.

Finding the exact right path

 Not that Hart’s path to carving has been linear. He originally trained as a graphic designer and completed the BTEC National Diploma in graphic design. It was after that he began to concentrate on lettering and going to Reading University to read typography.

P1130924.jpg

Wayne Hart – letter aware from an early age.

He has worked with great dedication on carving of letters ever since, but his approach is diverse, he is always seeking ways to add to his skills and knowledge.

This summer he will attend a postgraduate course in Roman epigraphy at the British School of Rome, studying Italian inscriptions and the Roman letterform. He won a scholarship to do this from the Harriet Fraser Bursary.

He is a role model for anyone wishing to finance their way through college. He has raised over £30,000 (£24,000 was for his apprenticeship) to help finance him through training.

 All about training and practise, practise, practise

With his degree from Reading he met various lettering artists and managed to land three weeks work experience with carver Richard Kindersley at his London studio.

He was an apprentice as a carver for three years in Cumbria, studying under Pip Hall. He learnt to draw and carve lettering and continued to practise calligraphy.

W Hart red bricks and wood carving.jpg

Carving in wood – another discipline.

This time one task meant his embarking on a ‘letter carving in wood’ course with Martin Wenham at the College of West Dean, Sussex. There he worked on signage, memorials, commemorative gifts and also participated in six public art projects. These included thirty carved benches commissioned by Sheffield City Council.

“The first year of my apprenticeship was funded by the Lettering & Commemorative Arts Trust. It is the only organisation in this country that champions excellence in the lettering arts. It brings together artists and the public together via training programmes, apprenticeships, events and original commissions,” explains Hart with enthusiasm. He is a trustee of the Manchester Craft & Design Centre.

While he was an apprentice he forged links with various important institutions. In 2017 he was commissioned to carry out the lettering on C S Lewis’s memorial, laid out on the floor, of Westminster Abbey.

He also undertook the carving of Dame Edith Cavell’s memorial ledger and headstone, just outside Norwich Cathedral, where she is buried: “I carved the edelweiss on her headstone. It was based on the badge she helped to design that her nurses used to wear, “says Hart.

A dislike of the ubiquitous granite head stone

 One carver commented that he did not enjoy carving Cumbrian Green slate, it was good but a bit ‘glassy’, but Hart enjoys it and he works with it a lot.

Hart likes to work with Kilkenny limestone. He abhors granite shipped from China, because he wants to keep his wrists ‘working for a long time’. Granite is very hard to chisel. The monumental masons who sell quantities of granite head stones to the bereaved do so because it is cheap, using sandblasting for lettering mostly.

Hart points out that, “A carver is able to take a flexible approach to the stone, unlike monumental mason’s granite machine-cutting which tends to be very square, and there is no variation or flexibility.”

He says that mass produced head stones often have an unsuitable type face for example, Times New Roman (which was designed to be read in a small font for newspaper columns), and the letters are all the same size which is a great constraint.

W Hart paint on stone.jpg

Some examples for Hart’s lettering and style –  for all manner of  letter work.

Hart likes to use local British stone where possible, and Italian marble and alternatives where necessary.

 

Creating a memorial for a loved one

 Hiring Wayne Hart to carve a memorial would be a luxury for most people, but sometimes the extra can be worth it. He charges per letter, as with any bespoke carving.  Bespoke carving for a grave stone is likely to cost in the region of £2,000 – £5,000 upwards.

There are a lot of decisions to be made by carver and client, to produce a pleasing finished product that both are happy with. There is the type of stone to consider -granite is value, sandstone is middling, and slate is the most expensive.

Grave yard regulations have to be observed, such as height restrictions to tomb stones, stone types and anything out of the ordinary will need to go to ‘faculty’, and can involve a series of ecclesiastical permissions.

Then there is the choosing the stone itself and the carving with a choice of many different letter forms. Carvers use letter forms, not typefaces, as all styles are drawn by hand straight from the mind, and even the same style can vary from work to work.

“I was greatly influenced by my apprenticeship mentor, Pip Hall. My fluid lettering definitely stems from her,” comments Hart.

His style continues to evolve and he enjoys designing fresh lettering styles that fit each brief.

“Carving is slow and precise. Funnily enough, it isn’t that likely an experienced carver would make a mistake while carving, like you would when writing a letter for example. If you know what you’re doing you can get out of a mistake, see it coming as it were,” he adds.

WAYNE HART.jpg

Hart on slate: it could be a memorial or for a grave.

Hart works hard at the business of being a professional carver, he is a natural net worker in a very ‘word of mouth’ profession. He is dedicated to his profession, working from his studio in Manchester. He loves what he does.

He says simply, “I want to be an artist”. He must be doing something right as he says he’s always got work  and some of it high profile. Happy man, he is at the beginning of many years working away at perfection.

 

 

Going to church could help you live longer

According to a study by Marino Bruce, a Vanderbilt University professor and the associate director of the school’s Center for Research on Men’s Health, people who attend worship services may reduce their mortality risk by 55 percent — especially those between the ages of 40 and 65.

In the study, Bruce collected data on over 5,000 people, tracking their church attendance along with such variables as socioeconomic status and health insurance coverage. Using this data, Bruce and his team came up with a statistical model to predict risk of mortality.

The result? Those who did not attend church at all were twice as likely to die prematurely as those who had attended a worship service in the last year.

More details

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