Churches are assessed as a houses of “good” as well as of God in a study of their value to the community to be published by the National Churches Trust tomorrow.
The concept of a “house of good” has been used to value the significant social and economic support generated by and through church buildings in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The report shows that each church is not just a house of God, but also a house of good, and recommends that the future be secured with adequate funding.
The study values the social impact that the UK’s 40,300 church buildings have on society as at least £12.4 billion. The report calls for church buildings to be designated as key places, recognising that they are “a ready-made network of responsive hubs that look after the care and wellbeing of the local community”.
The government is urged to establish a new repair and maintenance fund for places of worship. The overall message is that as society emerges from Covid-19, key places that look after the vulnerable need to be identified as part of a strategy to help society move forwards post-coronavirus. Churches also need to be provided with financial support.
The report suggests that the social impact of church buildings goes far beyond those who worship in them. During lockdown, some 89 per cent of churches continued providing local support, from online worship to delivering shopping to isolated people.
From food banks to credit unions, church buildings provide essential services for people in urgent need. They bring communities together and help them thrive, providing what the report calls a “social glue”, the report says. Church buildings house youth groups, drug and alcohol support clinics, after-school care and mental health counselling. They are described as, “a safety net that stops our most vulnerable people falling through the cracks”.
However, it has become harder for places of worship throughout the UK to obtain the funding they need to remain open and in good repair. Many lack basic facilities such as toilets and kitchens. More than 900 churches are on the Historic England Heritage at Risk Register. Over the last 10 years, the National Churches Trust has awarded more than 1,500 grants totalling £14 million, but this is only one in every four of the projects it would like to support.