Wendy Harris, Secretary of the Diocesan Advisory Committee for the Care of Churches and Churchyard (DAC)
Churches are people, not buildings - but for most of us being a member of a church involves things that happen in Church buildings. They are ‘shop windows’, a visible focus in communities and a hub from which church members reach out to minister to those around them. They are also places of beauty, quiet and prayerfulness.
"Church buildings are ‘shop windows’, a visible focus in communities and a hub from which church members reach out to minister to those around them."
Church life develops over the years, with new challenges and priorities as the world around us changes. Church buildings need to keep pace with this, while staying special and retaining their unique heritage value. They need to be kept ‘fit for purpose’, which means that they must be able to support the Church’s present-day ministry and mission effectively.
Most Church buildings date from a time when patterns of church life, and people’s expectations, were different from today. Many of the parishes in our diocese have adapted their buildings successfully over the years but making change happen is not always easy. It requires faith and persistence. My job as DAC secretary puts me in the thick of this, helping parishes update and develop their buildings.
Often meeting basic needs transforms a church building and makes it welcoming: installing toilets or a kitchen; creating flexible spaces suitable for different uses, perhaps by removing pews; making the building accessible for people with disabilities; ensuring it is warm and well-lit.
"It’s a joy to share in the enthusiasm of parishes as they achieve the changes they need and begin to use new facilities."
It’s a joy to share in the enthusiasm of parishes as they achieve the changes they need and begin to use new facilities. Just recently I’ve visited two very different parishes who are just completing significant projects. There was a real buzz of excitement!
So, how fit for purpose are your church buildings? Are they a good advertisement for the Gospel?