From the review process, a number of recommendations can be made for both diocese and parishes to work together for the best future of our buildings.
For the diocese to:
- Support a protocol of early intervention
- Undertake further data collection and analysis
- Ensure sufficient ongoing resources to support churches
- Designate use of church models (e.g. Festival Church as an alternative to and minimising church closures)
- Investigate ways church maintenance can be facilitated
- Continue to facilitate training, advice and good practice
- Promote and actively participate in tourism projects (such as Shropshire/Hereford partnership)
For parishes to:
- Utilise buildings asset review tools and this toolkit
- Explore opportunities for greater community engagement
- Investigate support opportunities: grants/trusts/maintenance/change options
- Aim to be carbon net zero by 2030
- Ensure church buildings are a blessing and not a burden
Parishes, and thereby their church buildings, are inextricably entwined with mission and ministry. They are most often where we ‘do’ church, the base, in their own community. They should be a blessing and not a burden, but when this dynamic alters the problems come.
The diocesan Shaping for Mission process has revealed and confirmed where life and growth is, and where it is not and might never be again. But also where with some help, i.e. early intervention, the church buildings might be saved, turned around, and in turn fully utilised once again for mission and ministry.
Closing churches should be a last resort, once all options have been considered using the early intervention protocol in this toolkit (see fig. 1 in toolkit module 1). The closure process is time- and resource-consuming, and can be deeply emotional, and so is not to be undertaken likely.
There is no silver bullet to save and support all 544 church buildings in the diocese, but this strategic review and toolkit seeks to provide practical information and support to assist parishes in reviewing and assessing their own churches. The intention is to ensure that these buildings are fit for purpose, meeting current and future needs, as expressed in the Taylor Review: Sustainability of English Churches and Cathedrals:
The vision behind our proposals is to create a more sustainable future for buildings… by empowering and assisting congregations to do even more to involve local communities in enjoying, valuing, using and caring for their churches.
Next section: Next steps and contact