Telegraph on England’s ‘at-risk churches’: Number grows as Historic England warns dwindling congregations are struggling

St Annes LimehouseThe Telegraph has alerted readers that churches are in danger of falling into disrepair as diminishing congregations mean they are increasingly being added to the ‘at-risk’ register.

website image – St Anne’s Limehouse, recently added to the ‘at-risk’ register

The Telegraph writes:

The ‘heritage at risk’ list, which was released earlier this week, added 130 new churches, while 115 were removed. 6.3 per cent of listed places of worship are on the Register. Historic England, which compiles the list, said the number of churches was steadily growing as churches struggled to make enough money from the collection plate.  The churches newly added to the list included the Church of St George the Martyr, on Borough High Street in Bermondsey, south London, which appears in Charles Dickens’ novel Little Dorrit. It has suffered extensive damage to the interior because of cement repairs carried out in the 1950s, which have cracked, allowing water to get in.

A spokesman for Historic England said: ‘This year’s statistics are not unusual – the number of Places of Worship on the Register has been creeping up over the last few years.  This is because we have been working with partners from all denominations to better understand the condition of our Places of Worship, assisted by the Support Officer Posts we fund in several places.  However it is fair to say that the deteriorating condition of these buildings nationally reflects a trend well publicised relating to the declining numbers in congregations, with smaller groups of people often struggling to look after their individual churches.’

Figures released earlier this month showed that Church of England Sunday congregation numbers have fallen to a new low of 780,000 people.  Heritage groups and the Church of England called for more funding to help congregations repair churches.

A spokesman for the National Churches Trust, which works to preserve churches, said that maintaining them was a ‘major challenge for cash strapped congregations, especially in rural areas where the number of worshippers may be extremely small. Solutions include providing more money for repairs through schemes such as the government sponsored Roof Repair Fund and making it easier for churches to carry out regular maintenance, thereby preventing the need for expensive repairs.’

Becky Clark, Director of Churches and Cathedrals at the Church of England, said: ‘The challenges of caring for old and complex buildings are manifold and, like the rest of the heritage sector, we are facing increasing challenges in raising funds for repairs and maintenance.’ She added: ‘These statistics show us that there is still more to do in generating both funds and support for parishes that are using their listed church buildings to grow and sustain their community. The Church of England cannot care for these buildings on its own.’

Last week the Sunday Telegraph revealed that a number of cathedrals are piloting contactless donation boxes as an alternative to traditional cash boxes in an effort to boost donations.

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