Church Building Review - additional uses of your church building
An introduction on how church buildings can be used in addition to regular worship. It is not an exhaustive list of subjects nor of locations. It is based on previous knowledge and PCCs sending the diocesan office examples of how they use their church building.
If you are doing something that’s not on this list or you are, but the church is not named, please contact Charlotte Hodgson so we can update our information.
This is not a competition. You are not expected to adopt any or all of these ideas but we do commend them to you. We think there is something for everyone. There may be a brand new church or village hall in your parish and your church is a mile outside the community down a muddy track. With the best will in the world it is unlikely your church will become a café or host a farmers’ market. But it may be a suitable habitat for wildlife, or the architecture may interest visitors.
Hopefully this list will inspire to explore how you use your church and demonstrate that change is indeed possible.
|Festival Churches/Chapels of Ease||Lt Whelnetham, Lindsay, Wantisden, Ixworth Thorpe, Flempton|
Festival churches remain parish churches and need a PCC but are not required to hold regular worship. The PCC can resolve to become a festival church in order to concentrate on providing worship at key dates in the Church year.
More information can be found at
Festival churches | The Church of England | Weblink
Association of Festival Churches | Weblink
A chapel of ease does not require a PCC as it becomes a ‘daughter church’ to a neighbouring parish which will absorb the chapel’s parish within its boundary. Weddings will require a special licence.
|Coffee mornings||Darsham, Thorndon (T-Plus), Gt Ashfield (TOAST), Wenhaston, Burgate, Ingham (Cup and chat), BSE St John, Sudbury St Gregory|
|Book sales / Fairtrade / Shop||Hemingstone and Gt Ashfield (village library), Lavenham, Eye, Long Melford|
|Sport/recreation||Ingham, Kesgrave, Little Bealings|
|Homeless outreach||Ipswich St Helen|
|Foodbank||Felixstowe St Edmund, Hollesley|
|Markets||Laxfield (Farmers’ market), Blythburgh|
|Café||Little Bealings, Ingham (pop up café), Thorndon|
|Community Garden||Badingham churchyard|
Community outreach often requires space. This may not be available if the church is heavily pewed. The removal of pews is possible if the PCC can make the case. The DAC and chancellor will have to weigh up the importance of the need to remove pews against the heritage value the pews retain. If the case for the pews’ removal is great and their heritage value low, it is likely permission for their disposal is granted. However, if the case is pretty thin and the heritage value high then removal is unlikely. The PCC argues the case in Statements of Significance and Needs.
More information can be found here:
Statements of significance and needs | The Church of England | Weblink
The removal of pews requires a faculty. However, permission from the archdeacon for temporary removal to try something out for a two years may be allowed if the work is reversible. Speak to the DAC secretary for more information.
The serving of food and drink probably means a servery and a WC would be useful. These too will require Statements of Significance and Needs and a faculty. Speak to the DAC secretary at the earliest possibility so a site visit can be arranged to discuss how the servery and WC can be accommodated.
Mains water and drainage is not necessary for WCs if a composting system is used. Examples of those used in the diocese are:
Biolet (BioLet Composting Toilets - Advanced waterless toilet solutions) | Weblink
Natsol (Compost toilets for allotments, churches & all sites without mains services) | Weblink
If water is laid on to the church but drainage is an issue speak to your architect about a trench arch drainage system.
The installation of a servery and WC is likely to require the services of your architect and the DAC will need to consult a range of statutory bodies prior to giving you its final advice. Build in at least a year for the discussions, site visits and consultation process. It is more challenging to find grant-making trust to fund ‘improvements’ rather than repairs. A useful tool is
Parish Resources website Funding | Weblink
Parish Resources which contains regularly updated information on sources of funding. However, it is important for the PCC to focus on the wider community than just the worshipping congregation. And don’t assume what the wider community wants – please ask!
|Café Church||Stanton, Troston, Ingham, Haverhill, Woolverstone, Woodbridge St John, Beccles St Luke, BSE St Peter, Newmarket St Mary, Stanton All Saints, Gislingham, Saxmundham (connections church)|
|Pilgrimage||Kersey Pilgrimage trail, St Edmund trail|
|Alpha Courses||East Bergholt|
|Children’s church||Spexhall (Explore2!)|
|Youth Club||Hadleigh, Ipswich St Andrew, D Cultural|
|Art Exhibitions||Blythburgh, Lavenham, Long Melford, Kersey, Acton, Tuddenham St Mary, Debenham, Friston|
|Music, theatre||Cratfield, Blythburgh, Clare**, Woolpit**, Orford**, Lavenham**, Long Melford**, Framlingham**. (** Music in Country Churches), Bury St Edmunds All Saints, Fornham All Saints, Fornham St Martin, Acton, Darsham, Halesworth, Great Livermere, Brent Eleigh, Rushmere, Brundish, Tuddenham St Mary, Rede, Aldringham, South Cove, Newmarket St Mary, Hartest, Raydon, Levington, Sudbury St Gregory, Thornham Parva, Gazeley, Cowlinge, Hepworth, Covehithe, Onehouse, Lackford, Wattisfield, Barningham, Brockley, Monks Eleigh, Hitcham, Great Barton, Stoke by Nayland, Cretingham, Thornham Magna, Aldeburgh, Gt Wenham, Thornham Magna, Great Bricett, Eye|
|Eco church||Horringer, Bury St Edmunds Christ Church, Ingham, Bradfield St George, Bradfield St Clare, Great Livermere, Cockfield, Gedding, Barnham, Barton Mills, Worlington, Freckenham, West Row, Exning St Martin, Brandon, Gislingham, Wissington, Polstead, Stoke-by-Nayland, Nayland, Leavenheath, Bentley, Kesgrave, Great Bealings, Martlesham St Michael and All Angels, Martlesham St Mary the Virgin, Melton, Felixstowe St Edmund, Felixstowe St John the Baptist, Higham St Mary, Bury St Edmunds St Peter, Great Barton, Little Whelnetham, Timworth, Thurston, Walsham-le-Willows, Mildenhall, Thorndon, Bures, Tattingstone, Hacheston, Felixstowe St Nicholas, Trimley St Martin, Beccles St Michael, Beccles St Luke, Walton, Felsham, Ipswich, St Mary at Stoke, Haughley, Brent Eleigh, Ipswich St Thomas the Apostle, Great Blakenham, Mellis, Harkstead, Debenham, Stowmarket, Culford, Bury St Edmunds St John the Evangelist, Higham St Stephen, Gazeley, Moulton, Ipswich St Francis, Little Bealings, Bucklesham, Levington, Boyton, Icklingham St James|
|Swifts||Tattingstone, Saxmundham, Whepstead, Sproughton, Newmarket St Mary, Needham Market, Stowmarket, Haughley, Aldeburgh, BSE St John, Worlington, Wetherden|
|Wildlife||Freckenham (bird feeders), Ipswich St Mary le Tower (peregrine falcon), Great Bealings (churchyard information hut / hide)|
|Tourism||East Bergholt, Lavenham, Southwold, Long Melford|
|Wedding fayres||Gt Blakenham|
|Death fayres||Ingham (grave talk)|
|Lectures / talks||Hitcham, Chattisham People visit church buildings for a wide range of reasons beyond worship.|
Most of this diocese’s churches (95%) are listed of being of historical or architectural interest. As such they will be of interest to many people – fascinated about local history, the wonderful architecture or where their grandparents were married. Most of our churches are unlocked allowing access to visitors during daylight hours. If your church is locked then please consider opening it – there is no additional insurance premium and you’ll be surprised by how many people will leave comments in the visitors’ book and a donation in a wall safe or via a card machine.
Encouraging wildlife helps one of our Marks of Mission. This can be as simple as managing your churchyard either wholly or in part to attract wildlife. The Suffolk Wildlife Trust has resources to help PCCs:
Churchyards | Suffolk Wildlife Trust | Weblink
Erecting swift boxes has been very popular and boxes for swifts or any other bird can be installed in your church with List B permission from your archdeacon. Great Bealings erected an information hut / hide in the churchyard so visitors can watch and identify the animals and birds that visit. A new shed requires a faculty but I hear it has been put to great use by the wider community and visitors using the adjacent footpath. For more information on eco-churches then please contact the diocese’s environment officer at firstname.lastname@example.org
We hope this is of help to you and your PCC. Please let us know of how you are using your church so we can update this list and share good practice round the diocese.
The Ven Dr David Jenkins and the Church Buildings Review Group | March 2021