Church buildings review

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.


Type Location
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.


Type Location
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
Refugee support Rattlesden
Dementia support/café Ingham
Markets Laxfield (Farmers’ market), Blythburgh
Café Little Bealings, Ingham (pop up café), Thorndon
Community Garden Badingham churchyard
Mindfulness Ingham

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!


Type Location
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
Cinema Kesgrave
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

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

Page last updated: Wednesday 14th September 2022 1:04 PM

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