Church Buildings Commission Terms of Reference
The purpose of the Church Buildings Commission and its work is to look at a sustainable future for church buildings across Norfolk and Waveney.
There are over 640 churches in the Diocese of Norwich, which covers most of Norfolk (but not all) and Waveney in Suffolk.
Most of these are medieval buildings. 95 per cent are listed, 50 are located in populations of less than 50, 150 are located in populations of less than 150. Some parishes are struggling to keep them in good order and open.
“There is an assumption that the Church of England owns the churches and not PCCs, and that they will always be there as they have for hundreds of years. In truth, the nation’s heritage is being cared for by a small handful of volunteers.”
Extract taken from the Church Buildings Commission report: Lifelines for Historic Churches and their Communities; Keeping Church Buildings Open.
The long-term sustainability of this very large number of churches within the Diocese of Norwich is an issue that can no longer be ignored and urgently needs positive and workable solutions.
And yet, Norfolk and Waveney have the most wonderful concentration of beautiful and varied churches, the greatest concentration of medieval churches in the world. The landscape is dotted with medieval church towers, each one a gem in its own right.
“The listed buildings of the church of England have played a central role in their communities throughout centuries of England’s history. These are places for celebration, culture, commemoration and community gatherings, places of sanctuary and worship”.
Extract taken from The Taylor Review: Sustainability of English Churches and Cathedrals 2017.
Over the last generation or so, church attendance has diminished in some places but more importantly, the relationship between the Christian churches and wider society has significantly altered too. Latterly, grants for church buildings have been much more difficult to acquire, the number of volunteers is falling (a reduction of 20 per cent of churchwardens in the area in the last six years) and the average age is increasing.
Two major national reviews have been carried out one in 2015 and one in 2017 but no overall sustainable solutions have been found for the lack of balance between the resources required to maintain the churches and the resources available particularly in the rural areas.
The Purpose of the Commission
The aims of the commission are to identify:
- the parish churches of the Diocese of Norwich which are most vulnerable to diminishing usage, financial, practical and volunteer support
- potential opportunities locally to introduce complementary or alternative uses, drawing on best practice elsewhere
- options for the future as resources continue to diminish (all potential options will be considered)
The Commission will:
- be made up of a variety of stakeholders to guide its work, with an independent chair
- consult widely and draw on the experience and views of others in formulating ideas and options
- make recommendations to the Bishop of Norwich and the council of trustees