Churches could double as banks, or even serve beer. We can’t leave them empty

Jan 2, 2022 by

by Simon Jenkins, Guardian:

These mainly listed buildings sit at the heart of almost every community – we are squandering a precious legacy.

For the first time, possibly in a millennium, fewer than half of all Britons call themselves Christian. This month’s updating of the 2011 census suggests the latest figure is down from 60% to 51%, with predictions that next year it will be in the 40s. No one yet knows what the pandemic has done to religious faith, but the trend across the western world is the same. At least in wealthier countries, religion of any sort is becoming a minority practice.

The archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is an ardent evangelical. His Anglican church has spent a phenomenal £240m since 2017 on a mission to “plant” new churches, apparently to no avail. Vicars are some of the most dedicated and public service-minded people I know. They are underpaid and overworked. They will be further demoralised by predictions of another 20% of worshippers poised to desert their congregations after Covid. Yet the public will regard all this as Christianity’s problem, not theirs. As the retreat continues, some will shed a tear but few will worry.

Though standing mostly empty and underused, churches have an eerie hold on local people, Christians and atheists alike. The church is their history, their museum, their place of ceremony, their source of comfort in distress. Clergy and volunteers supply a supporting social service, gamely put by the National Churches Trust as worth £55bn a year to the national wellbeing. Many are stunningly beautiful, many others are aloof, dishevelled and grim. But they exist and are not going to vanish. All they can do is fall down, as Britain’s medieval castles did centuries ago. A derelict ruin at the centre of every town and village in Britain is not a fun prospect.

Read here

See also:

More than 400 churches close in a decade amid ‘shocking’ threat to parishes, by Gabriella Swerling, Telegraph

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