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Church Buildings Support Conversation

Helping churches to care for, use and improve their buildings.

Introducing the Church Buildings Support Conversation

In Chelmsford Diocese we are blessed with nearly six hundred church buildings. Many are an important part of our heritage and have been at the heart of the communities we serve for hundreds of years. Most importantly they are sacred places of worship, mission and ministry.

Just as we are grateful for the buildings, we are grateful, too, for those who take care of their upkeep and development. I know that responsibility for a church building can sometimes feel more like a burden than a blessing. It is a challenging and often costly ministry. So over the coming months, we will be holding diocesan wide conversations about how we ensure those who care for our church buildings are given the support they need to maintain, manage and improve them. 

The Rt Rev Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani, Bishop of Chelmsford,
Diocesan Synod, Presidential Address, June 2024


What is the Church Buildings Support Conversation?

This is the first part of our wider Parish Support Conversation, which will cover the many different ways our churches and their leaders are supported in their mission and ministry. You can find out more about the Parish Support Conversation here.

Please click on the boxes below to find out more about the Church Buildings Support Conversation.

  • Goal

    The main goal of the Church Buildings Support Conversation will be to discern how resources can be used to ensure parish clergy and volunteers are adequately equipped in the care of their buildings.

  • Priorities

    The conversation will focus on three priority areas

    1) Support for those who care for, maintain and improve our church buildings

    2) The role and work of the Diocesan Advisory Committee

    3) Support for those trying to reduce the carbon footprint of their church buildings

  • Advisory Group

    In June 2024, an Advisory Group was convened, consisting of people from churches across the Diocese, to help design the Church Buildings Support Conversation.

    The group includes Churchwardens, Deanery Lay Chairs, church buildings experts and diocesan staff, with representatives from each Episcopal Area. 

  • Next Steps

    This Autumn, the conversation will be taken out to church communities across the Diocese. The Advisory Group would love to hear your thoughts on what the discussions should cover and how the conversations might take place. 


Share your thoughts and ideas

 

St Andrew's Good Easter - a special building

Allison Ward is the Lay Chair of Dunmow and Stansted Deanery and serves as Parish Administrator for the Rodings, Easters and Great Canfield benefice, which includes the church of St Andrew Good Easter.

She is also a member of the newly formed Church Buildings Support Conversation Advisory Group and has shared her reflections on St Andrew’s Church building and what her hopes are for the Church Buildings Support Conversation.

  • Read Allison's Story

    Ahead of the first meeting of the Church Buildings Support Conversation, we were asked to reflect on a building that means something special to us.

    I asked this question in the family, my 17 year old daughter said she had no emotional attachment to a building. My 16 year old son’s response was Twickenham a reflection of his passion for rugby, which started a family debate on whether this was actually a building.

    We concluded what makes a building mean something to you is what happens inside, not just the bricks and mortar and what they symbolise. An empty Twickenham or any national sports stadium is nothing without people, fill it with 80,000 rugby fans and you gain a whole different experience.

    The church building that mean’s something to me is St Andrew’s, Good Easter. This is my ‘home’ church, where I am a PCC member and have worshipped for the past 25 years.

    This is typical of many of the 27 church buildings in the Dunmow and Stansted Deanery where I have served as Lay Chair for the last two years, all are listed and include grade I churches amongst them. They are set in large churchyards, a handful now closed for burials. They are typical of village churches towering above all else in the community. Some are now in the ‘wrong place’ separated from community by the road network, or where villages were abandoned and rebuilt following the 17th century great plague, or where villages have become small towns and the new housing has been built away from what was once the village centre leaving the church building no longer at the heart of the community. These historic buildings heavily influenced by the Victorian period of church restoration are difficult to heat, lack modern facilities, expensive to maintain and full of fixtures and fittings that make them uncomfortable and difficult to use for today’s community events. Some have been able to make steps forward in sympathetically updating their buildings and yet despite all the challenges over half are open daily and have regular community activities beyond Sunday worship. They all have dedicated churchwardens and PCCs who voluntarily care for and look after these national treasures.

    The church building in Good Easter and its churchyard tell the stories of the communities that have lived and served here. Last year the PCC completed a six year project to install a kitchen and a toilet, you have to be patient in Church of England planning, although we were unexpectedly distracted during this time by a need to re-roof the south chancel and north nave after both started slipping. We are a village with a population of 350 people, a PCC of 7 including the vicar, and did not have cash in the bank when we started for either the roof or new facilities. What we did have was a love for the building, prayerful patience, persistence, and a vision to see our church building more widely used and able to offer hospitality to visitors including those who walk the Essex Way which passes through the churchyard.

    We may not be able to fill the church with 80,000, however it is being amongst the people, past and present who have shaped the history of this place, worshipped here, and served their communities that makes this building special to me.

    I am hopeful that the Church Buildings Support Conversation will help us to better understand and support  the needs of those in our parishes whose vital, challenging and often costly ministry is to care for the great variety of church buildings we have across our diocese; nearly six-hundred church buildings that are all special places to their worshippers and the communities they serve.


Current support for those who care for church buildings