Module 4 in the toolkit deals with some of the ‘nuts and bolts’ of dealing with our buildings, making suggestions as to how current practice can be improved.
Maintaining church buildings
This topic is arguably the biggest problem facing parishes who want to spend more time and resources on mission and ministry but who feel hampered by this responsibility. A large amount of time and hard pressed resources are being expended. Many churchwardens and PCCs are ill equipped to efficiently procure this necessary work and need assistance. Whilst some PCCs are proactive and organised, many approach it in an ad hoc way which will, with a lack of regular maintenance, lead to very expensive repairs later on.
A helpful diocesan guide to Common maintenance issues in churches and churchyards, and suggested remedies, has recently been produced as part of the preparation of this toolkit.
The Church Buildings Council (CBC) actively promotes the National Churches Trust’s MaintenanceBooker scheme, which encourages congregations to maintain their buildings by making it easier for them to source quotations from pre-vetted contractors. However, in practice, many churches have maintenance agreements or competent and well-resourced work parties, so are not signing up to this scheme. In addition contractors are being put off by the pre-qualification exercise.
Another initiative by CBC is a Church Buildings Maintenance Partnership (CBMP). To date there is yet to be an operational CBMP anywhere in the country, but a group of dioceses in the south east are working together on the possibility.
Much work in churches requires financial assistance from grant making trusts or other organisations. Money raised from these sources means less drain on the PCC’s own resources allowing for regular payment of parish share. The new diocesan Church buildings and churchyards web page provides advice to PCCs on finding such grants and funding.
- That the diocese interrogate deanery data/‘traffic light’ summaries to understand underlying issues and provide targeted assistance (see strategic review part 3)
- That all PCCs arrange a maintenance contract and consider joining a local, diocesan or regional maintenance scheme where this is available. PCCs can increasingly look towards using the services of partner organisations to assist in the maintenance of church buildings
- Further investigation, perhaps in liaison with neighbouring dioceses, into the provision of a Church Buildings Maintenance Partnership
Paying the insurance premium is often seen as a burden on a PCC’s funds. Premiums rise but few PCCs experience the need to claim. It is recommended that further work is undertaken on the current level of insurance and what practical alternatives exist, and review the necessity in every church for 100% reinstatement full cover. The diocese, relevant archdeacon, and insurance provider should discuss with each parish the appropriate level of insurance.
- Every parish should obtain at least two quotes for insurance
- Parishes should give consideration to the required level of insurance cover (and corresponding and sometimes highly expensive premium), as to whether 100% reinstatement is always appropriate.
Net zero carbon
Following on from Diocesan Synod (2020) approval to co-ordinate the diocesan response to the Church of England’s commitment to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2030, the diocese will practically advise and support parishes in this initiative. Church buildings are collectively one of the largest contributors of diocesan carbon emissions. Information and signposting is available on the new diocesan Church buildings and churchyards web page.
Every parish is encouraged to:
- Set out a plan to be carbon net zero by 2030
- Complete the Church of England’s Energy Footprint Tool each year
Case study: Net zero carbon
Meir Heath (Stoke)
... or discreetly positioned on a listed building – St Alkmund's Shrewsbury:
Online Faculty System (OFS)
The administration of faculties was simplified in 2016, and further amended in 2020. Fewer works now require a faculty, with most repairs able to be approved by the archdeacon (List B works). Applications for all proposals are made via the Church of England’s Online Faculty System (OFS). Further details can be found on the Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC) web pages of the diocesan website.
That parishes make full use of the OFS and the integrated Church Heritage Record (CHR) to help them request and record necessary changes.
Clergy and laity training
Lack of formal training for clergy and laity in looking after church buildings is a serious issue, leaving many new incumbents and churchwardens feeling unprepared for the challenges they face. Recommendations to changes to college curriculums is beyond the scope of this toolkit but it is recommended that regular clergy training on issues contained in this toolkit is undertaken within the diocese, alongside the annual training for new churchwardens.
There are many aspects of leading and managing a parish that cross the boundaries of expertise of the various teams within the diocese. So, in the preparation of this strategic toolkit, it became apparent that a new Church buildings and churchyards web page was required to pool tailored information into one place before publication of the toolkit. Items covered include legal and procedural, environment and wildlife (net zero carbon and Eco Church etc.), church buildings maintenance and repair, accessibility, grants and funding.
- That this web page is regularly updated and enhanced
- Diocesan webinars and training sessions are provided
Taylor Review – parish church support recommendations
As recommended in the 2017 Taylor Review: Sustainability of English Churches and Cathedrals and subsequent 2020 Taylor Review Pilot Evaluation, in relation to listed church buildings, there is a proven and so corresponding need in both urban and rural parts of this diocese for ‘feet on the ground’ to come alongside struggling churches, to help to holistically review the assets, to engage with the community, and advise and support ways to make the churches sustainable in terms of buildings maintenance to support mission and ministry. This outcome actively responds to the recommendation in this strategic toolkit for early intervention (see toolkit module 1).
Two specific support roles are identified in the Taylor Review. Firstly, a Community Support Adviser (CSA), who would help churches identify and enhance vital community relationships to enable the church to become a community resource and in turn become more sustainable. Secondly, a Fabric Support Officer (FSO), who with practical heritage buildings experience would work alongside the CSA supporting the PCCs in the strategic planning and practical execution of major works and routine maintenance, visiting each church annually, and developing a Minor Repairs Plan and a rolling ten-year Major Repairs Plan.
The Government is currently considering both the Taylor Report and subsequent Pilot Evaluation findings. It is hoped that funding would be put in place for a national network of CSAs and FSOs, together with ring-fence funding for Minor if not Major repairs. In the interim, before confirmation of any national scheme and to plug the gap in terms of support for non-heritage churches, perhaps creating a team of experienced volunteers akin to the diocesan Parish Assessors ought to be actively considered.
That the Government roll out a network of CSAs and FSOs, and that we are ready to respond to benefit from such an initiative. Meanwhile to investigate other funding options to provide a similar package of support (e.g. a Church of England Strategic Development Funding bid) and the prospects of creating a volunteer cohort similar to the Parish Assessors team.
Church buildings team
We seek to develop a proactive team including the archdeacons and diocesan officers who will support this toolkit on the basis of early intervention. There are key benefits in pooling together staff who work on various aspects of church buildings into a virtual team as and when required. This would bring a greater focus and improved efficiency.
That existing staff involved in all aspects of church buildings should be brought together to form a virtual team and consideration given to adding personnel to this team, including volunteers.
Next section: Recommendations and conclusion