Seminar: Church Buildings – How to make them happen

Posted on: 10/10/2019

Jim Hamett and Nigel Walter will be giving a seminar on Church Buildings: How to make them happen on Tuesday, 15 October at the Christian Resources Exhibition. The seminar is at 11am in Room 3.
Is your church considering a major church building project? Do you need some straightforward guidance to get you started? Then this seminar is for you.

In this seminar you will:

  • Consider how to plan a building project from scratch
  • Discuss ways to raise the money for a major project
  • Consider the spiritual journey your congregation needs to go on for the project to succeed
  • Learn how the mission of the local church is uplifted by a welcoming building
  • Walk away with informed enthusiasm for the task ahead

Contact ChurchBuild if you would like free tickets to CRE.

For more details on how to get there, see the CRE website. You would be very welcome to visit us at the ChurchBuild stand S124.

Buildings for Mission handbook launched

Posted on: 09/10/2015

Presentation of the handbook to Bishop of Ely

Everything you always wanted to know about church buildings but were afraid to ask…

The long awaited Buildings for Mission handbook has finally been published, and today a copy was presented to The Rt Revd Stephen Conway, Bishop of Ely, in the Lady Chapel at the Cathedral. (Note in the background John Maddison’s magnificent reredos and altar). If you are a church client of Archangel Architects you will be getting a copy free.

For much more on the handbook, including an outline of the contents, see the dedicated Buildings for Mission pages.

‘This is a golden handbook for parish ministry.’

The Rt Revd Stephen Conway
Bishop of Ely

ChurchBuild 2.0

Posted on: 10/06/2014

Slide from ChurchBuild landing pageWe’re delighted to say that the revised ChurchBuild site is now live!

If you haven’t visited recently you should see lots of change, including a the new ChurchBuild Project Guide comprising more than 30 articles on managing church building projects, together with an expanded range of downloadable resources to match.

We hope you find the new material useful; if you have ideas for improvements, please leave a comment or let us know via the Contact page.

Statements of Significance transformed

Posted on: 08/04/2013

HeaderIf your church is an old building, or even remotely interesting, then when you propose changes to it you will need to write a Statement of Significance. There have been a variety of attempts to provide guidance on how churches should approach this (including on this site), but the quality of the result is often very poor – at one extreme some churches photocopy a page from an architectural history, or at the other extreme submit an expensively commissioned piece of work by an external consultant. Neither of these delivers an enduringly useful document, one that the church takes ownership of and sees as important in informing their use and care of the building. The root of the problem is that few in the churches can see the point of them.

Getting StartedThe wonderful Christianity and Culture is hoping to address these deficiencies with a new web-based tool, developed with significant financial support from English Heritage, who see this as a major priority. A workshop took place in mid March to test drive the format and detail of the tool with a real-life example of a church (St Peter’s, Norton on Derwent, outside York), and this post reports on two exciting aspects of the discussion – firstly giving you preview of the tool itself, and why it is such good news for churches with historic buildings, and secondly presenting some thoughts about what the tool could become, which is even more exciting!

The ToolProgress

The first key innovation is that the tool breaks the Statement down into a series of sections, which enables the work to be shared, as different people can be given responsibility for each self-contained element. Furthermore, because it is web-based, the document is always accessible, and can be updated as new information is discovered and as personnel change; it therefore can become a shared point of reference that can be accessed and amended as required.

Having registered on the site, you have a choice of starting a new Statement, or open an existing one you have been working on. The current structure is split into 8 sections:

  • Step 1 – General Information – this identifies the building and its location
  • Step 2 – Existing Scheduling and Orders – this is where you put the text of any listing description etc.
  • Step 3 – The Church Setting – a description of the area around the church, both built and natural.
  • Step 4 – Churchyard and Site – the external space that belongs with the church, including any built, natural or archaeological features.
  • Step 5 – The Church Building -Inside – This section allows you to add specific features, including a photograph and a description, to include any important furniture and fittings.
  • Step 6 – The Church Building – Outside – As for step 5, but for the outside of the building.
  • Step 7 – Social History – particular people associated with the church, and community comment and memory.
  • Step 8 – Your Sources – where you got your information from.

Each section will be supported by guidance and examples, including images and short videos. This itself will be of great value in helping to clarify the type and extent of information that will be of value.

All of this is great, and should help these Statements to become something other than an imposed chore. Having put all the information in, you will then be able to export a formatted pdf document for printing and electronic circulation. It is anticipated that the tool will be launched later this year. If you cannot wait to get your hands on this, and want to contribute to its development you can contact C&C for login details to gain access to the prototype.

The Potential

So far, so very good. But what is really exciting is the prospect of giving broader access to anyone and everyone to view the collected information. This would allow anyone in your local community, or indeed the world, to look at your church, and to get a feel for its character and history.

General InfoBut then imagine what would happen if it became interactive, and we were allowed to leave comments, like a digital visitor’s book. Suddenly the site becomes a community, and mere interest starts to become active involvement.

And then what about using the site for recording additional information that comes to light in the process of researching the building? What about oral history, for example the account of the family that was bombed out of their East London home and lived in the church for a week? These personal accounts are gold-dust, for both present and future. Or what about a brief video tour? This material is a really valuable part of the significance of the building, of the narrative of the church in its particular place, yet the audio file would never make it into a Statement of Significance, let alone be publicly available. There is huge public interest in this additional material which is often the part of ‘heritage’ that is easiest for people to engage with, and which tells the building’s story most eloquently.

Without doubt these digital visits would in turn drive more physical visits. The ability to contribute, to shape a community around the church, would stimulate interest and potentially give that wider community a role in looking after your building. Which is to be welcomed! And when you did come to propose changes to the building, not only would they be better considered, you would also be able to demonstrate (in most cases) that the church hasn’t always been the way it is now. The commenting facility would also be one valuable means of community consultation, which will give those that must approve your proposals confidence that the community had been given a voice.

Imagine if we could use a site like this to build a social history of the community. Imagine if I am sitting in Australia or Canada and were able to upload a photo of my grandmother’s wedding in the church, or of the party held at the Queen’s coronation, or whatever.

The Righting of Wrongs

What makes this so powerful is that it allows the readmission of the broader community to its church. In my view it was one of the greatest crimes of the Victorian age to remove the community uses from our churches, which have therefore come to be seen as the ‘religious club’, to which you either belong or not – in or out – saved or damned. This is a relatively recent aberration; by contrast, the medieval model was much more nuanced, allowing the wider community to engage with the church.

The potential here is therefore to turn church buildings into forms of social media. I wouldn’t suggest this is all that a church is or should be, but, if you think about it, this has always been a part of what a healthy church traditionally was. By means of this tool, Statements of Significance, which started out as a misunderstood burden, could become a means of radical re-engagement with the broader community. Bring it on!

Upcoming Buildings for Mission Events

Posted on: 04/03/2013

CandC MenuDo you struggle with your church building? There are two ‘Buildings for Mission‘ events coming up at the end of next week that may be of interest, particularly for those in the north of England. Both events are linked with the wonderful Christianity and Culture.

Buildings for Mission: Friday 15th March 2013, at the Church of St Michael and All Angels, Houghton le Spring, Co Durham

This is organised by Inspired North East and is billed as a practical conference to help you take a fresh look at your church building; the cost is just £15. The keynote speaker is The Right Revd David Stancliffe, who is the former Bishop of Salisbury and also wrote the excellent Lion Guide to Church Architecture. The day includes a section on Tools for Action, and a serious of workshops looking at a variety of case studies.  Click here for booking information.

Buildings for Mission 2: Saturday 16th March 2013, at the Church of St. Peter’s, Norton on Derwent, North Yorkshire

This could be billed as ‘The Sequel’, as it addresses the four main areas of interest that emerged from the feedback forms from the first ever ‘BFM’ day in March of last year. These ‘hot button’ issues are the liturgical and practical issues around reordering for worship, seeing your building’s potential, interpretation materials for church buildings, and how to create a Statement of Significance

Cost for half a day £15, or the full day £25 including lunch and refreshments. Click here for booking information.

Why am I interested?

Both events will include a demonstration of a new Statements of Significance Tool which has been developed by C&C with significant input from English Heritage, and should revolutionise the creation of these crucial documents. The Tool is web-based, and splits the process into 10 sections, so that the work involved can be divided between different people, and will always be available to be updated. The Tool will be trialled at both of the above events; by using the event venue as a model, the idea is to get feedback on the way it works prior to its launch later in the year.

Coming to a church near you…

Christianity and Culture has designed ‘BFM’ as a toolkit of parts to enable dioceses across the country to run the same event. If you are interested in this, please contact C&C (01904 328095), and speak to Louise Hampson.

FREE tickets to CRE International 2013

Posted on: 01/03/2013

CRE Sandown 2013ChurchBuild is delighted to offer our subscribers free tickets to CRE International, saving you up to £6 per head. Everything you need to equip and resource your church can be found at the exhibition, which runs from Tuesday 14th to Friday 17th May – for more information click on the logo to the right…

Complimentary Tickets

To book your complimentary tickets, click on the banner below, and you will be taken straight to the complimentary ticket registration. Under ‘Purchase Options’ remember to click on ‘Exhibition – Complimentary‘. We look forward to seeing you there.


Things That Only Get Better

Posted on: 11/02/2013

TrainersI don’t know whether you caught the item on BBC Radio 4 on Saturday morning on what apparently is called “emotionally durable design”. Jonathan Chapman, professor of sustainable design at Brighton University, was talking about designing items that people would still want to own in say 20 years time. One example was some trainers designed by Emma Whiting, with a stain resist pattern, so that as they pick up dirt the pattern emerges. You can find the interview here.

This got me thinking about buildings. To generalise, traditional building materials and detailing are all about ageing well, whereas  buildings in the modern era are all about the pristine photographic image on Day 1. There is a whole sub-discipline of conservation that deals with rescuing modernist buildings, which often fall out of favour and are difficult to rescue – Dudley Zoo is one example.

Another example from the interview were a set of wooden coasters, which are allowed to stain through use, but where the stains become part of the design. The current fashion in architecture for unprotected timber boarding which is allowed to weather naturally is perhaps trying to achieve the same thing. This is fine where the material is matched with appropriate detailing which allows the timber to weather equally, but usually one ends up with unsightly staining Beverley Minsterbetween areas that see the rain and those that do not.

So what does ‘Emotional Durability’ have to do with churches? We live in a culture where we are encouraged to crave new things, and where it is the poor that have old, second hand objects. So to see value in old churches is quite counter-cultural; yet if the gutters are kept clear and if cement mortar is not used for repairs these buildings are amazingly durable, and in general people love them for still standing there, often at the centre of their community. They provide a sense of rootedness amidst the newness of the objects we surround ourselves with. And for new church buildings, we should think beyond our own immediate needs, and think of the ‘lovability’ of the work we do for future generations. By doing so we can put our present functional needs in the context of the bigger story of which we are a part, of those who came before and those who will follow after.


Learning from Retail – Mary Portas

Posted on: 30/01/2013

Holywell_High_StreetThe parallels between the retail sector and the church is an area that is of great interest – retail has much to teach the church, but the key question is drawing the right lessons and not the wrong ones. Revd Philippa Boardman’s excellent session at the recent National Archdeacons’ Conference at Swanwick told the story of rebirth of St Paul’s Old Ford in East London and brought out some wider lessons. For me the highlight was her co-option of The Portas Review, and particularly her section on ‘My vision’ which, if you want to see the original, is on page 14.

To demonstrate the proximity of church and this vision for the future of the high street, Philippa took this vision statement and simply substituted the word “church” in place of “high street”; the text then read as follows:

My vision

I want to breathe economic and community life back into our high streets churches


Let me spell out my vision of the future.


I don’t want to live in a Britain that doesn’t care about community.


And I believe that our high streets churches are a really important part of building communities and pulling people together in a way that a supermarket or shopping mall, however convenient, however entertaining and however slick, just never can.


I want to put the heart back into the centre of our high streets churches, re-imagined as destinations for socialising, culture, health, wellbeing, creativity and learning. … The new high streets churches won’t just be about selling goods worship. The mix will include shops space for worship but could also include housing, offices, sport, schools or other social, commercial and cultural enterprises and meeting places. They should become places where we go to engage with other people in our communities, where shopping worship is just one small part of a rich mix of activities.


This will be the new value.


High streets Churches must be ready to experiment, try new things, take risks and become destinations again. They need to be spaces and places that people want to be in. High streets churches of the future must be a hub of the community that local people are proud of and want to protect.

For me this is as compelling a vision for the church as it is for the high street and provides lots of food for thought.  Clearly the church is (or should be) all about standing in the centre of the local community; and yet I suspect there are few churches that could not learn something from the vision statement above.

Look out for further posts that pick up some of these ideas in more detail.

Storytelling Technologies

Posted on: 20/12/2012

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending the Churches Tourism Association convention. The final morning featured a ‘Using Technology’ session which featured of presentations on a number of relevant technologies. I’m hoping to do a short series of posts looking at some of these in turn.

What Did Google Ever Do For Us?

We’re all familiar with Street View on Google Maps – a great way of checking what an unfamiliar place looks like before you get there. And of course it only shows you the outside of buildings, right? Not any more! Google Business Street View is an extension of plain old Street View into the interiors of publicly accessible buildings. Google’s idea is to let you see the inside of commercial buildings such as restaurants – Google has some information here. Fine for businesses (for which Google developed it) but it turns out this technology is great for churches too!

View Larger Map
Street ViewChris Jones of LeicesterPhoto Design demonstrated the technology, using the example of the medieval St Mary De Castro Church in Leicester, for which he was the commissioned photographer. The tell-tale on Google Maps is when you come to a double arrow – see the picture to the left – which indicates that you can ‘cross the threshold’ into an accessible interior. Chris has some information on this service here. (If the above example doesn’t show for any reason, go to Google Maps and enter the postcode LE1 5WH.)

So why is this technology interesting?

For historic buildings Street View is a new way that enables them to tell their story (in visual form at least). Clearly this doesn’t give the ‘visitor’ the full experience of being in the space, let alone the historical detail. But as a taster it is fantastic. And this is relevant whether your church is steeped in history, or is “post war charmless” – either way it helps people who have never visited the building before to feel more comfortable crossing the threshold. Not knowing what to expect is a powerful disincentive for people unused to church – and church buildings – to engage with us. This is a great example of one area where the church can learn from the world of retail. Even better, it is an area where the Church of England is leading retail – Chris is one of 20 accredited photographers who have agreed a national pricing structure with the Anglican Church, and the group will shortly be doing a test shoot for the National Churches Trust.

A Tale of Two Conferences

Posted on: 07/11/2012
Internal view of St Paul's Old Ford

Internal view of St Paul’s Old Ford

As with buses, so with church conferences! Within the space of 10 days there are two significant conferences that are relevant for anyone thinking about churches – particularly how they are used and how they should be changed.

The first if these, New Work in Churches, took place last week (October 31st) at Lambeth Palace. It was organised by the Church Buildings Council, and brought together a range of speakers, most of them architects including Eric Parry (St Martin in the Fields), Sophy Twohig of Hopkins (Norwich Cathedral Refectory) and Oliver Caroe (Lichfield and St Paul’s Cathedrals). As you may have gathered from the churchbuild site and from these blogs, technical solutions and beautiful outcomes are not (for me) the greatest challenge – more important are the processes of arriving at a coherent vision for what a given church in its locality is called to be, and then articulating that vision to build consensus both within the church and across the broader community.

Hence it was particularly refreshing to hear from Sophia de Sousa, chief executive of The Glass-House Community Led Design, and the one non-architect to speak. As she pointed out, a church building will generally be loved within its community; proposals to change a church will therefore bring out this sense of latent ownership, which if not handled properly will be expressed as opposition. Change, and particularly proposals for partnership, will challenge perceptions. For example, local people might:

  • see the church building as places only for those practising religion;
  • be wary of mixing religion and enterprise;
  • be wary of changing a building that is in the collective memory of local historical value.

Sophia used one of our favourite examples of a church reimagined with community engagement: St Paul’s, Old Ford in Bow, East London, which includes 3 floors or community facilites including a cafe, meeting spaces, an educational charity and a gym all within and alongside the continuing church functions.

Michaelhouse, Cambridge

Michaelhouse, Cambridge – Cafe in the Nave

The forthcoming Sharing Sacred Spaces Symposium will take place on Saturday 10th November at Michaelhouse in Cambridge; I understand tickets are still available. By contrast to the New Work conference there are no architects due to speak – it is likely therefore that the symposium will have a more practical focus on process and the sharing of client experience. The speakers are professionals with a variety of roles (mostly within the church) all focused on helping churches with the adaptation of their buildings. Of those I have heard speak before Andrew Mottram, Heritage Buildings and Community Development officer at the Diocese of Worcester, promises to be particularly engaging with his understanding of the interrelation of the operation of church buildings with their theology.

The Symposium bills itself as being for those – church wardens or incumbents, architects, development officers – who either have already adapted a church, or are actively thinking of doing so, and wish to share their experiences and problems. The fee of £60 includes a hot lunch, which will be hosted at the nearby Trinity Hall. Further details and booking form can be downloaded from the Michaelhouse website. And if you’re unable to make the symposium but find yourself in Cambridge, Michaelhouse is highly recommended for a cup of coffee or a light lunch!

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