Two recent articles on the Guardian website highlighted a survey of our churches and other places of worship by English Heritage. The survey uncovered an urgent repairs backlog of an estimated £900m, with the current condition of one in 10 churches causing serious concern.
One article, published prior to the release of the survey, said:
…The report, to be released on Wednesday, is not as bleak as many feared. It is expected to show that one in nine (11%) of all places of worship are in poor or very poor condition and therefore at risk, based on a representative sample survey of almost 1,500 buildings. The remainder are in fair or good condition, greatly valued both by the worshippers and the surrounding community, and often well supported and maintained through heroic efforts by tiny regular congregations.
The article goes on to say that the type of building often has much bearing on its condition – higher graded listed buildings are often in poor condition, as are isolated rural churches. Inner-city churches are often found to be in better condition than those in rural areas, but the survey found that 28% of places of worship in Birmingham are at risk – St. Barnabas on Erdington High St is one of these.
However mammoth the task of caring for our crumbling places of worship may seem, English Heritage is very positive about what congregations can do to help. Dr Simon Thurley (Chief Executive of English Heritage) said:
“I urge everyone who cares about their local church, chapel, synagogue or other place of worship to lend a hand. Don’t be put off by what might seem like an impossible challenge – the key is to do small things really well. Finding somewhere to serve cups of tea might achieve just as much as a major building project. Clearing gutters could save the need for a whole new roof or renewing damp walls at a cost of thousands of pounds. Brambles cleared in a Cornish churchyard last year made way for a host of primroses this year and an influx of visitors as a result. Get hold of one of our Caring for Places of Worship booklets and get going!”