Festival churches

Published on: 4 May 2021

In 2016, General Synod adopted the Church Building Review Report which contained several initiatives, one of which was to explore the idea of creating festival churches.

Festival churches are valued by their communities often delivering much needed services. The churches often have a flexible service pattern, which focuses on the festivals of the Church of England such as Christmas, Easter and Harvest Festival, but also local festivals, Saints’ days, Mothers’ Day, Remembrance Sunday, or Rogation Days.

The defining feature of a Festival Church is the ability to vary the service pattern as needed and valued by the community. A Festival Church can remain legally ‘open’ as a parish church, while embracing this flexibility. The Church Buildings Council recommends a minimum of six services per year, as this will allow you to continue to qualify under the Listed Places of Worship Grant scheme.

If you are considering this change, then it is advisable that your Archdeacon is consulted at the first opportunity. This can then lead on to consultations with the community, Benefice and Deanery, with both their knowledge and support. The Bishop should also be informed of the PCC’s intention, and a template for the PCC resolution and letter to the Bishop can be found at www.DofN.org/festival

Becoming a Festival Church allows the building to be used for appropriate complementary uses (community, cultural and commercial), which gives opportunities to reconnect the church building and congregation with the community if this connection has been weakened or lost. It may also open opportunities including funding which normally we would not be able to consider. Becoming a Festival Church is not a failure, but an opportunity to do church differently. It is a way in which our amazing buildings and communities are adapting to an ever-changing world and making the most of opportunities that are available to us.

Some features that are common to festival churches include:

  • open during the day for visitors and worshippers
  • increased use of church building for community needs, and this can include installing toilets, kitchens, improvements to the heating and lighting and even reordering the building
  • release of energy for outreach and mission activity
  • insurance and maintenance responsibilities may be delegated, pooled or outsourced.

Most festival churches operate within the parish structure, but there are times when further measures may be necessary, and if you feel that you have reached this stage, then I would urge you to speak with your Archdeacon to see what options are available to you. For more information please visit www.DofN.org/festival

An Association of Festival Churches has been set up to give support and advice to parishes and dioceses looking at the festival churches model. Parishes, if they so choose, can affiliate themselves with an annual fee to the association, which means they will get regular updates and materials sent to them and can benefit from the experience and mutual support of other members. More details can be found at www.fchurches.org

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