Church buildings: burden, blessing and an asset for mission

Together with many Dioceses and some other national organisations we were lucky enough to receive funding from English Heritage for a Places of Worship Support Officer. Although this programme has now finished many regional PoWSO’s have been kept on by Dioceses and are continuing to give much needed support and advice to the churches they work with.

Here we welcome guest writer Andrew Mottram to introduce a new report written jointly by PoWSO’s in the West Midlands area. A discussion document based on their experience in the Dioceses of Hereford, Lichfield and Worcester from 2009 to 2015, the report is full of content and ideas which may be relevant to churches and those who care for them across the UK.

St Luke, Reddall Hill, Cradley Heath (Andrew Mottram)

Since 2011 up to seven PoWSO’s in West Midlands and Wales have met regularly and found that there were common problems frustrating their work to support Church congregations struggling with their buildings.

In addition to a widespread lack of understanding about the benefits of preventative maintenance, the main issues are the Church of England’s structures and legislative requirements – from the appointment of clergy to the closure process, all of which can hinder the effective management of church buildings.

In 2014 “I wouldn’t start from here” was produced by the four West Midlands PoWSO’s as a discussion document shared with other PoWSO’s in England. There was general agreement that the problems identified were common across the country but there were innovative solutions being considered in some dioceses.

CBBBAM is a summary of the previous discussion document and offers solutions to the issues raised. In summary there are too many buildings for the people available to manage them. This leads to neglect and to assets becoming liabilities. There needs to be a strategic approach to managing buildings, ensuring that there are creative solutions to surplus buildings and effective support for parishes in the management of their buildings.

Andrew Mottram

Download the report here.

A great Yorkshire welcome…

Last week I attended one day of the Church of England’s DAC conference, being held in Hull.

The conference was hosted by the Diocese of York, on the theme of ‘Open and Welcoming Churches’. I got an invite because of my church tourism background (and the fact that I am local), and I am proud to say that Yorkshire did not disappoint.

Hull and the surrounding area is not the first place that many people would think of when talking about church tourism, or tourism in general. However, it has a number of wonderful greater churches, and a wealth of smaller parish churches bursting with beautiful architecture, fascinating heritage and warm and welcoming people.

Despite a somewhat grey day, we visited some inspirational churches, great not only because of their buildings but also for their vision for the future of their community and the welcome they give to all visitors.

Particularly inspirational was a visit to St Andrew, Paull.

A church with a vision for the 21st century, the church has recently added toilet facilities and a kitchen, runs a cafe for the community and visitors, has regular events and activities and is currently installing wifi that will broadcast to the whole community (the first in the country to do so), making the church the key place in the village.

Church volunteers provided a tasty (and locally sourced) lunch, and weren’t phased at all by 120 people descending on them for an hour of poking around and asking questions.

You might be thinking then that the church is at the centre of a bustling community, and gets passing visitors everyday. In fact, it is at the end of a spit of land, not on the way to anywhere and definitely not close to any honey-pot attractions.  However, their activities have seen a huge increase in the number of people using the church, and in visitors making the deliberate trip to experience their welcome.

No wonder then that this is where the Churches Tourism Association chose this welcoming church to launch a new CD Rom all about church tourism – the nitty gritty of why, how and what the benefits are of being open and welcoming to visitors.

Perhaps churches wanting to do something similar should take a trip up to Paull, it certainly would not be wasted!

Find out more about St Andrew, Paull on their website:

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