Historic Churches 2019

BCD SPECIAL REPORT ON HISTORIC CHURCHES 26 TH ANNUAL EDITION 3 THE TAYLOR REVIEW Diana Evans T HE TAYLOR Review: Sustainability of English Churches and Cathedrals is nearly two years old and we are halfway through the pilot project exploring some of its core recommendations. The Taylor Review might have been buried or ignored because it didn’t appear to provide the radical new solution that so many had been hoping for in terms of future sustainability, but the government, in particular the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), was committed to taking it further. Set up to focus on the Church of England (primarily parish churches rather than cathedrals) it recognised the reality of the situation that the places of worship sector found itself in, which was not rosy in December 2017. The government-sponsored Listed Places of Worship Roof Repair Fund had injected £55 million into buildings in need between 2015 and 2017, but the fund was spent and everyone knew it would not be repeated. Subsequent evaluation by ERS Research & Consultancy showed that even £55 million could only fund 26 per cent of the total value of the applications made to it. Also during 2017 the Heritage Lottery Fund (now National Lottery Heritage Fund) announced that it would not continue the Grants for Places of Worship programme it had run since Historic England’s earlier withdrawal from the Repair Grants for Places of Worship scheme that both organisations had operated together. This was the end of dedicated places of worship grants that had, in various iterations, contributed nearly £500 million since 1996. At the same time there was increasing emphasis on places of worship being accessible to, and available for, non- worship activities. All funders seemed to be moving away from capital grants for repairs to keep the buildings fit for purpose towards community based activities. This approach offered hope to congregations with a clear vision for such changes and enough volunteers to develop proposals that attracted funding. However, it had the effect of depressing those in small but active communities trying to keep a building going. It also frustrated denominations and congregations who believed they were custodians of sacred space, that could not be used for a farmers’ market or creative play zone. The changes in funding culture also opened up a linguistic gulf between people of faith and the administration of grants. According to the Statistics for Mission 2017: Social Action survey, 80 per cent of Church of England congregations collectively offer their communities more than 33,000 social action projects, but they don’t articulate these in terms that ‘tick the boxes’ for funding applications; instead they talk of them in terms of service, outreach and compassion because those are the words that make sense in a faith context. Consequently, these often appear to potential funders as evangelistic (and therefore ineligible) rather than for public benefit per se. Being so enormously active also means that congregations find it hard to demonstrate that the outcome of any funding will be that more community engagement will take place and that a demonstrably increased number of people will value their heritage. In any case, congregations just don’t ask for that sort of feedback, their attitude is one of welcome and offering, not evaluation and monitoring. This isn’t to say that funding should not challenge congregations to use their buildings creatively and more regularly. At the very least every place of worship should be unlocked and accessible daily, if only as a haven for the harassed or heritage-hungry. Even insurers recognise that this reduces, rather than increases the risk of damage or theft because the possibility of someone just walking in The Taylor Pilot has helped Beyton Parochial Church Council (PCC) to apply for a grant to repair All Saints Church in Suffolk, including the replacement of five broken coping stones on a very low tower parapet. The church has previously struggled to find a contractor due to its height and the extremely low parapet, making safe access a problem. (Photo: Historic England)