The case of the missing visitor information

Open or closed

Open or closed

At the National Churches Trust we sometimes hear from people who find it difficult to find information about when a church is open for visitors. In writing an article about a number of historic churches, I have recently experienced for myself just how difficult it is to find visitor information online about churches.

I won’t name the individual churches concerned, but one is certainly a national landmark and the other three are of considerable historic interest.

The national landmark church has an impressive website. But although there was plenty of information about times of services, rightly so for a major place of worship, there was no information provided about when the church opened or closed. A potential visitor is left assuming that the church may be open from 9 -5 seven days a week. But perhaps it is from 8 – 6, and what if times are different in winter or there is one day of the week when the church is closed? There is, of course, the option of phoning the church, but why is basic information on opening times not provided online?

So, when is your church open?

For the other more minor churches, two did not have their own websites. That is of course excusable, as websites do take time to manage and keep up to date. As these were Church of England churches, information was available from the CofE ‘A Church Near You’ website. But this website mainly provides information for church-goers as opposed to church visitors and therefore lists service times and not opening hours. Maps on this site show the location of churches. However, address and postcode information is hard to find as it is provided in a tiny font size at the bottom of a page – almost looking like a footer it is therefore easy to miss. A useful guide to one of these churches is provided by a website about historic churches, but again there is no information on when this particular church is open.

Walks and refreshments

Searching for the fourth church online produced a full page of results. Administrative information was provided on the local diocesan website, together with a useful history of the parish. But again, although service times were listed, there was no information provided on opening times for church crawlers. An even better page for this church was provided by a local history society. This included a list of transport options for those wanting to travel by car, bus or train. The page even suggested a walk which including the church and other local attractions and also suggested ideas of places to go for refreshments. But, perhaps not surprisingly, there was no information about when the church  might be open.

Perhaps I am expecting too much. Churches are of course places of worship, and service times may well be the most important information which they should provide online. But increasing numbers of people are interested in discovering the history, art and architecture of churches. Yes, some of these will be happy to travel blind in the hope that a church will be open. But there are many others who will be put off visiting a church if they can’t find basic details about opening times and travel information.

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2 Comments

  1. Are you aware of the Keyholder Android App? This has info about whan CofE churches are open, about keyholders if locked etc. Find more at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.cbnewham.keyholder.
    I’m not sure if there are others like this.

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  2. I think the big problem here is that quite a lot of churches are run by volunteers and whilst they do an excellent job they can’t be relied upon. So they can’t really put on their website that a church will be open at set hours when in reality they might not get the volunteers to be able to open up and lock the church at those times.

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