No diocese has a greater concentration of medieval churches than Norwich. And some more recent ones too. Six hundred and fifty-three churches for a population of around 900,000 is generous provision by anyone’s standards. The landscape of Norfolk would be spiritually flattened if they were removed. Each church building has a story to tell. They have served their communities in a variety of ways. They are often a blessing but they are also a big responsibility, and in some places a burden too.
Even where that burden is keenly felt, a church building is still a silent witness to God’s presence in a world where He is often forgotten. We sometimes think the burden has become too much but it would be presumptuous to assume our generation must be the one to remove the possibility of a church building being used for prayer and worship by generations yet to come. That’s not to recognise particular challenges, especially in some of our most rural communities, where the present model of organisation and maintenance of a church building has proved inadequate. The population of some of our parishes is now very tiny and there is no longer a functioning parochial church council, churchwardens or church officers. Therefore we are launching a Diocesan Churches Trust which will enable a limited number of church buildings to be leased to it and which will hold them on behalf of their local community. In practical terms this will mean that the church is still available for occasional services and will continue to have a basic level of insurance and maintenance. This will enable such a church to come back into regular use in a way which would be almost impossible if the building was formally closed and declared redundant.
This is an innovative project. It has never been tried elsewhere and other dioceses are interested to see how our Trust will develop. We have been immensely fortunate to receive a grant of almost £50,000 from the All Churches Trust to launch this initiative and get it established.
It is important to emphasise that the establishment of the Trust is not designed to indicate withdrawal from ministry but to enable some churches maintain some of their core functions to parishioners which would otherwise be very difficult. Questions are bound to arise and literature has been prepared to explain what we are doing in more detail. This can be downloaded below.
If you have any initial queries, do address them to your Archdeacon or alternatively to Matthew McDade, our Executive Officer for the Care and Development of Church Buildings on 01603 882350 or email@example.com
I hope you will join me in welcoming this initiative to support our continuing mission and ministry in the Diocese. Do pray for all those who are involved in it.