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.

 

 

 

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

The Temple Church in London – History, Architecture, Art

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The Temple Church in London – History, Architecture, Art

 Edited by Robin Griffith-Jones and David Park

Publisher: Boydell Press

First published 2010

Paperback edition Nov 2017

Price £19.99

It is impressive to allot 219 pages to a single church – the Temple Church – which has stood between Fleet Street and the River Thames hard by the Inns of Court, London, since the late 12th century.

It was built by the Knights Templar as their London headquarters and is characterised by having a round nave modelled on the fourth century Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, and because of that a favourite choice of the Templars for their churches.

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The Templar Churches round nave beloved of its makers.

The book is a collection of nine essays by academics from the universities of London, Oxford, Leicester, Cardiff, York, and Santa Cruz in California. With a chapter each, they trace the evolution of this remarkable church which boasts among other treasures an important collection of 13th-14th century stone effigies.

Not surprisingly the church, one of the most important medieval churches in London, has been changed, rebuilt in parts, adapted and refurbished over time, including work by Sir Christopher Wren reflecting changes in the perception of the church’s significance in the 18th century.

It underwent a major overhaul in the 1840s. Then came the bombing of May 1941 and the devastating fire that ensued, making extensive re build and restoration necessary.

The 109 black and white photographs are interesting, particularly a group taken in 1885 taken by the architectural photographers Bedford Lemere, which give some idea of what the church looked like in high Victorian times.

The fact that the book sprang from a conference experts on the Temple church held at the Courtauld Institute explains why it is shaped as it is with versions of the papers presented at the symposium.

6. Military effigies x 4 since 1842, photos by Bedford Lemere, c.1885

Some of the Templar Church’s 13th-14th century Knight effigies.

Robin Griffith-Jones, Master of the Temple at the Temple Church and David Park professor, Courtauld Institute of Art, are the book’s editors and they also contribute a chapter apiece. The books was partly inspired by the fact that Temple Church has not attracted much literary or scholarly attention to date, despite its importance.

This is a book for church and church architecture scholars, there is not much ‘popular’ about it with its ample detail and extensive foot notes. There is little orienteering for the ordinary reader but there is a welcome summary at the very start of the book.

However, the lay person interested in the church itself, ancient London churches, the Templars, Wren, Victorian refurbishment and the Blitz – should find it  full of information and interest with the text greatly enhanced by a generous number of colour and black and white photograph.

 

Hilaire Gomer

 

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