Welcome to this web page which brings together signposts to all the areas that affect managing, maintaining and using church buildings and churchyards.
The diocese is committed to helping parishes make the very best of their church premises which will in turn support their mission to their communities.
In which regard the Buildings for Mission: a Strategic Toolkit was launched in the summer of 2021, which encompasses and expands both on the issues below and introduces other ideas and options to help parishes make the most of their church buildings.
Legal and procedural
Changes to buildings and churchyards are governed by canon law and faculty permissions. Read more in the Diocesan Advisory Committee and Registry pages as well as the the lists for minor works. But before making specific plans and applications, it is worth taking in the various advice and experience that the diocese and similar parishes can share.
Most parishes have their buildings insured by Ecclesiastical (insurance) - who also have lots of helpful guides and advice.
The DAC has a whole page of Frequently Asked Questions about permissions for works, the DAC and Quinquennial Inspections, as well as a series of guidance notes on related subjects.
Environment and wildlife
Net zero carbon
The Church of England is committed to aiming for net zero carbon status by 2030, and it needs every parish to do its part. Many parishes as well as the diocese have alreaady worked hard to reach Eco-Church accreditation. Find out more about this and diocesan environmental policy here.
One of the most pithy explanations is from the national church: a self-guided checklist for churches who want an easy way to review their buildings against the Practical Path to Net Zero Carbon. There are two versions; one for printing and one for completing on screen. You can find them on the net zero carbon church landing page and on the Practical Path page.
The Energy Footprint Tool has been revamped and reopened in March 2021. The tool helps churches work out their 'carbon footprint' based on the energy used to heat and light buildings and offers helpful tips to reduce your carbon emissions. Using the tool each year will help parishes record annual energy information and track the impact of the different steps you are taking to reduce your carbon footprint as we move towards reaching net zero carbon status. Over 4,500 churches across the country have already used the Energy Footprint Tool, and it is available to all Church of England churches using the Online Parish Returns System.
Flora and fauna
We partner with Caring for God's Acre to provide advice and inspiration in working with nature in our churchyards as well as the expertise of our Diocesan Environmental Advisory Group, Diocesan Environment Officer and colleagues. CfGA have a fantastic series of short accessible videos suitable for all.
Is an initiative across all denominations supporting churches to become more environmentally friendly. After an initial survey to find out your starting point, support and advice are offered to make small or large changes. Changes can be simple and painless such as buying to fair trade tea and coffee, or registering with a ‘green’ energy supplier.
As an incentive, as churches become more environmentally friendly they can work towards bronze, silver or gold awards. As parishes gain awards they are reducing carbon footprint and helping our diocese to become an Eco Diocese. Find out how to participate on our Eco Church page.
Churchyard Award Scheme
Since 1993, the Churchyard Awards have encouraged parishes to take pride in the sacred grounds that surround our places of worship, encouraging care for the spaces that results in places that people appreciate when coming to remember loved ones and also having benefits for the native flora and fauna.
A panel of judges visit participating churchyards through the summer before awarding one of five levels of achievement and a separate certificate where wildlife care is significant. They carefully compare the sights before them with a clear list of criteria.
Details on the 2022 Churchyard Award scheme are now available. Or reread results for 2021 Awards and 2019 Awards.
Church Buildings - maintenance and repair
There are many elements that are worth keeping ahead of to avoid bigger problems later - either cyclic that will be picked up in quinquennial inspections that will need attention in the following years or seasonal/annual checks, tests or maintenance.
The DAC has advisers for subjects as varied as electrical, heating, organs, bells, clocks and IT. There are also pockets of information from other diocesan teams elsewhere on this website including subjects such as AV and streaming services, hearing loops and accessibilty.
Ecclesiastical Insurance lists many of these, eg:
- Cold weather risks - water and heating
- Assorted periodic system tests
20% of the United Kingdom’s population admit to having some form of disability. Many of these are Christians seeking to live out their lives with the challenges presented by their disability. CofE
Church buildings are at the heart of many communities, so ensuring that all are truly welcome means reviewing the accessibility. Although many church buildings are old, we must take seriously (Under the Equalities Act 2010) the access needs of existing & future congregations to encourage and strengthen the participation of all people whatever their age, ability or disability.
There are many ways to do this. For more information see the Church of England's advice and guidance for church buildings in respect of accessibility; and for tips, local support, advice & information the Enabling Church team are happy to work with you to ensure that you church is a place for everyone, today and in the future.
Grants and funding
Church buildings can cost a lot to maintain or improve sympathetically. Grants are becoming harder to find (as is the availability of support in obtaining grants).
- Parish Resources is a helpful site for many aspects of managing all aspects of parish life, including specialist grants: the National List of Charitable Grants for Churches is under on their Funding page.
- The Listed Places of Worship (LPW) Grant Scheme gives grants that cover the VAT incurred in making repairs. The scheme covers repairs to the fabric of the building, along with associated professional fees, plus repairs to turret clocks, pews, bells and pipe organs.
- The diocese finance team have launched a new Church Building Fund which helps parishes plan towards the cost of the Quinquennial Inspection.
- Ecclesiastical have a useful page on fundraising support during COVID-19 and beyond.
Graves and memorials
Perhaps one of the most emotive topics that brings the most disparate aspirations and wishes of the bereaved, the community and the obligation on the Chancellor to help preserve churchyards as a respecful and restful place. Ultimately guided by the Churchyard Regulations, many disputes can be avoided by understanding the competing priorities that vicars and PCCs are compelled to implement and the limits of the discretion they are allowed with regard to memorial designs, materials and artefacts left on them.
Useful links and organisations
The Church of England's ChurchCare - six pages of guidance notes from the Church Buildings Council - is the nearest we've found to a 'one-stop-shop' for those caring for buildings
There are a number of other organisations keen to support the physical and even spiritual manifestation of the local church, key among which are:
- Allchurches Trust
- Churches Conservation Trust
- Historic England
- National Churches Trust - guidance notes pages
- Parish Resources - including a key page on Buildings
Other resources on this website: