Tuesday 3 April 2018

The NSS Tweets Drivel

So, after our attention was drawn to Simon Jenkins and his One-Nation, bien pensant, Simon-says views on church buildings over the weekend (demolished by Jules at "Picking Apples of Gold"), the National Secular Society were obviously feeling left out, bless them. So they steam in by telling us:
So this massive amount of "your money" is less than two million quid over two years. And will go to listed buildings of various denominations or faiths, in Suffolk and Manchester.
An English country church - no spire (as ironically it has fallen down centuries ago)
"Stick the fruit machines in the nave, Father. It'll make a killing."

So let's consider. Firstly, Suffolk has many churches with tiny congregations. A few months ago, I was musing on the Benefice of the Saints, and the undoubted stresses they must have staffing the place. I don't know what their money situation is like, but given they're paying for the minister and have all those buildings to keep up....  There are, if you didn't have the information at your finger tips, 482 Church of England churches in Suffolk alone. If they shared that 2 mega-knicker out between them, that would be about 4 grand each. Enough to replace about a twentieth of a stolen lead roof.. Or 5 CCTV cameras each to protect the existing lead.  I guess they're gonna be grateful for a few quid.

A few quid to keep together what are, let us remember, not exactly "evangelising" power houses. These are buildings that act as the memory store of a community. These are often places which are open at all hours to people of all faiths and nuns - often at the risk of costly damage to interiors and belongings. These are the places where anyone from their parish can be buried, or married, whatever inaccuracies Simon Jenkins may believe. In short, these are community assets as much as they are places of worship.

And then, there's some places of worship in Manchester as well. Goodness knows the Mancunians could do with being told there's a better place. Apart, obviously, from Liverpool.

But there is always an alternative. The NSS could campaign for the government to remove the listing from ancient churches. Let the worshippers decide for themselves what they want to do. Maybe they could flog the lead and use the income to cover the roof in UPVC double glazing. Would make evensong cracking wouldn't it, if you could see the night sky? You think about those Orthodox churches which paint the stars on the ceiling - well, sell the churchyard off for a Tesco Express and you could have the real thing. Awesome or what. Or why not solar panels? Or advertising hoardings?

Does the NSS realise that the answer to its supposedly rhetorical question, "would the Church of England rather not have to maintain all their buildings?" is - quite often, no. They're not much use really are they?  You can't rent them out. You can't put tarmac on the graveyards and rent them out as pay and display car parks. You can't put on extensions if the congregation is growing,  without the Victorian Society hoving into view (the glory days of secularism under Charles Bradlaugh were Victorian times. This may not be a coincidence.) You can't even put a loo into the bell tower or some plastic chairs in the place without some Village Pooter taking it up with the diocese.

So come on, NSS. Launch a hostile takeover of the Victorian Society, then campaign for listing to be removed from ancient churches. "Your" money won't be needed for repairs, and Simon Jenkins's dream of a thousand mini-libraries, micro-breweries and cannabis farms will be realised. Windfarms can sprout in every churchyard in the land. And everyone will be happy. You never know - the churches could even put in some shelving for all those food banks.

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  1. "These are buildings that act as the memory store of a community."


  2. I'd vote for micro-breweries. No need for refrigerated storage, but probably need to add a pinch of Calcium Sulfate to the font water ;)

  3. Perhaps Simon Jenkins should be offered a tour of all of the churches in East Anglia to offer his expertise to the congregations on how they could make their churches secular establishments. But I anticipate he won't get far before a lynch gate party takes him off to a permanent place in a church yard.

  4. Pedants' Corner here but the cost of putting in a full system to deter metal theft from aisle roofs (you usually don't need something more for the nave) is under £4k for a small church. And you get a refund of the VAT too. I agree that the Jenkins article doesn't seem to be well informed. Most rural churches are both secular and religious in use: markets, concerts, film screenings, beer festivals, cafes - we do all that in ours. On Easter Eve we had 133 children careering around on an Easter Treasure Hunt and having huge fun. Rural churches, especially, don't exist in a vacuum.

  5. I like the idea of rural churches, I was previously in a five Church, rural benefice in Kent. And there were close connections with the farming community and they used all sorts of ways to both bring people in and to raise funds. One church hosts a Farmers Market fortnightly, another two run regular concerts and messy church, another attracts people who attend the Cathedral, but who come out to attend special events.

    There is a fierce loyalty to the local church, and while normal attendance might be in the twenties, festivals bring in more and where there is a village hall, they are used for occasional services informal and attract different people, particularly families.

    There is life, and their ability to fund raise and through friends groups, keep the fabric of their churches going is an example for those of us, who are now in urban parishes, which retain a village feel, can take some lessons from them.

  6. "The NSS Tweets Drivel"
    Hard not to place this in the "Dog bites Man" category.


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