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.

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Advice for a new churchwarden…

The best known new churchwarden in the country is in at the deep-end, raising money for the church roof.

Dot Branning Churchwarden

Dot Branning, newly appointed churchwarden of the church on Eastenders, has a lot in common with her real-life counterparts in feeling a small amount of panic in facing this daunting task.

Within the Anglican church, of which Dot is part, churchwardens are often legally responsible for all the property and movable goods belonging to a parish church. The realisation that they are responsible for a the daily upkeep of a major community space, together with the possibility of having to do major work to a building of significant heritage value can make the job seem very daunting.

However, help is at hand.

In an email to Dot last week, I detailed the support and advice we can give to churchwardens (and of course their counterparts within other denominations, and indeed anyone involved in caring for a place of worship).

It might be that Dot needs help with finding funding for the roof, or project managing the work to be done. She might want to set up a Friends Group or (somewhat ironically) encourage TV&film use of her church. Or she might need technical advice on caring for and maintaining an old building, or adapting it for community use.

All of these subjects are within the remit of my role as National Support Officer. So if, like Dot, you would like some advice please email me on sarah@nationalchurchestrust.org

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Over the years the Eastenders crew have filmed at a number of churches in and around London (mostly around Watford). Most recent, was a church in Hertfordshire, where the funeral of Derek Branning was filmed. You can see pictures from the filming here.

You can watch the episode where Dot becomes churchwarden here.

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