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Ecclesistical & Heritage World No.88

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Report backs community uses for faith buildings

The Government and the Church of England has published guidelines to help all religious groups overcome the ‘squeamishness’ they can encounter from funding providers. Churches and Faith Buildings: Realising the Potential identifies funding and support for faith groups that will enable them to adapt their buildings for community use and build on their capacity to engage at local and regional level.

The Government is keen to work with faith groups because they are deeply rooted in community life and are well placed to provide high quality local public services. The CofE could serve as a potential service delivery point, having a presence in every community and because of its unique legal status, the paper suggests.
Parochial Church Councils and similar structures in other denominations/faiths will now have a better understanding of how to access resources that will enable them to engage directly at a strategic level with the local and regional structures within which funding priorities and decisions are made. In turn, funders will be better equipped to understand the important role of the CofE and faith groups in delivering public services.
There will be no new money, but the document outlines how faith groups can tap into existing sources of funding from government programmes. It also sets out current government funding programmes and a list of actions to take the agenda forward.
A panel of experts will be set up by the Department for Communities and Local Government, including representatives from faith communities, which will seek “…to address any squeamishness that funding providers may have in allocating public funds to faith groups”.
The paper does not consider the funding of the general upkeep of historic buildings for activities such as worship; rather it considers funding for the physical alteration and modification of churches and other faith buildings to ensure they are fit for community use and funding to build the capacity of faith groups to engage strategically at local and regional levels around the delivery of local priorities and access to funding allocations.
The Bishop of London the Rt Rev Richard Chartres, said: “At a time of financial stringency, when the green agenda is growing in significance, it obviously makes sense to maintain and develop such a significant national asset. Any assistance would of course depend on a proven determination to equip the churches for wider community access but a relatively modest investment could yield large dividends.”
Loyd Grossman, the chairman of the Churches Conservation Trust, welcomed the report. He said: “The Churches Conservation Trust welcomes the launch of Faith Buildings: Realising the Potential as an important step in recognising the role our historic churches can play in reconnecting communities and providing quality public spaces for use by everyone. The Churches Conservation Trust’s 340 churches host a wide range of events – from rock bands to choral groups and even a circus school! Funding providers need to see the potential that these ancient buildings have as contemporary spaces with minimal adaptation.”


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