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A young woman had recently begun to attend her local Methodist church. Chatting with the minister she was asked what had made her join the congregation. Her answer: ‘I was walking around a cathedral and God zapped me’.

Revd Elizabeth Clark, National Rural Officer for the Methodist and United Reformed Churches writes:

“If church buildings have the capacity to move people in that way then we need to view them as more than just ‘bricks and mortar’. We all know that some places can feel particularly special.

“Churches, with their regular cycles of worship, prayer and sacrament, are sacred spaces, places of encounter in which individuals and the community meet with God. For many of us our spiritual journey can be linked to particular places: perhaps the church we have always worshipped in, the place we came to faith or simply somewhere we go to find peace and quiet.

“But the significance of church buildings isn’t limited to the spiritual realm. Particularly in established rural congregations, churches often have a personal significance: the building will have hosted families gathered together for baptisms, weddings, and funerals across the generations; it might be a place of happy childhood memories, or have an association with a special person.”

How do you feel about the church building you worship in? Does it feel like a special place? Your church building can say something special to visitors, something about God and faith. Even if you live in a small community visitors and local residents may pop in if the building is open.

According to a 2016 survey by the National Churches Trust (NCT):

  • More than four in five Britons (83%) agree that the UK’s churches, chapels and meeting houses are an important part of the UK’s heritage and history
  • The majority of British adults (80%) agree that churches, chapels and meeting houses are important for society as they provide a space in which community activities, as well as worship, can take place
  • 57% of British adults said they had visited a church, chapel or meeting house in the last year, equivalent to 33 million people, a figure consistent with the findings of a similar poll in 2015
    These findings demonstrate that the public value church buildings and see their potential for community use.

Open Welcome has been written to help Parishes open their church buildings and welcome in those who might visit.

The toolkit booklet is designed to be used in a group and the Conversation Starters are an opportunity to think and discuss together the call to mission in both the Bible and the community in which you live and worship.

You can download a copy of the booklet at the bottom of this article. For information about printed copies of Open Welcome, please email or visit