‘Sanitas sanitatum, omnia sanitas’ – The importance of church toilets

Yesterday we held three Focus Groups with Friends of the National Churches Trust to help us better understand what our supporters value about our work.

It was a fascinating day, and we’re really grateful for the time and effort of Friends who took part.

Much of the work of the National Churches Trust is in providing grants to repair churches, chapels and meeting. That allows places of worship to deal with things like fixing leaking roofs, repairing stonework and generally making sure that church buildings are safe and sound.

Our Friends told us that the reason this work is so important is that it enables places of worship to carry on serving both worshippers and also the wider community.

They also told us that our community grants, which help pay for things like new and accessible toilets, kitchens and heating are also vitally important.

For example, having a modern and accessible  toilet means that members of a congregation can stay for longer after a service has finished and not have to rush off home to use the ‘conveniences’.  Interestingly,  according to our Focus Groups, that is an increasingly important matter as congregations in some places of worship get older,  and  may also be more important  for women than men.

Modern and accessible toilets also means that a church can both run and host more activities, whether those are  meetings, clubs or charity events. (One of the most recent DCMS Capital Grants we recently recommended was to help improve drainage and install  a new accessible toilet at North Shields Baptist church.)

Although he was talking more broadly about public health, in the 19th century Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli gave a speech saying “A great scholar and a great wit, three hundred years ago, said that, in his opinion, there was a great mistake in the Vulgate, which, as you all know, is the Latin translation of the Holy Scriptures, and that, instead of saying, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” — Vanitas vanitatum, omnia vanitas — the wise and witty king really said, Sanitas sanitatum, omnia sanitas.”

Judging by the remarks of our Focus Group about the importance of church toilets, it seems as though Disraeli’s words are ones worth bearing in mind when we consider how best to ensure the future of places of worship.

If you have any thoughts on the importance of modern facilities such as kitchens, heating and toilets to places of worship please do let us know.


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