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Comment > Letters to the editor >

Can’t the Government see that faith resides under our roofs?

From the Revd Glyn Evans
Sir, — I welcome the Church Heritage Forum’s response to the recent parliamentary report on the role of historic buildings ( News, 6 August). Government and statutory agencies seem to have a blind spot when it comes to recognising the contribution that Churches and faith groups make to culture.

A working party in the diocese of Oxford recently produced Faith in Culture: A faith contribution to cultural strategies (available on www.oxford.anglican.org), when it was realised that regional documents failed to take seriously the connection between faith and culture, missing the numerous cultural activities that churches and faith communities are engaged in providing.

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport is currently consulting about their recently published document Culture and Regeneration. Once again, it shows a remarkable lack of awareness of faith issues and the way faith groups use cultural activities and projects to build social and community cohesion among young and old alike. It appears unaware of the built heritage of churches and faith buildings, and, in a section on schools, fails to mention the part played by faith-based schools.

In rural communities, church buildings are central to the heritage landscape. The church can sometimes be the only "agency" providing support for the socially excluded and marginalised, using cultural activities to build community. This is not mentioned.

Needless to say, the diocese of Oxford will be putting together a response to the consultation. Perhaps other dioceses would like to do the same.

It is important for the Church and other faith communities to keep alert for the opportunity to proclaim the role and purpose of faith, and thereby contribute to key policy- and decision-making processes. There is a plethora of government consultations and initiatives that need to be kept an eye on. At a time of scarce resources, it is easy to miss them.

GLYN EVANS
Oxford Rural and Regional Officer
Juxon House
Little Compton
Moreton-in-Marsh GL56 0SE

From the Revd Canon Arthur J. Dobb
Sir, — It is high time the cliché that "God is not interested in buildings" was put to rest. He is! And the history of the human race has been interlinked with sacred buildings since Abraham was called from Ur of the Chaldees.

People on earth need their material, sacred place. Both Peter and Paul, in their letters, use "the temple" as a parable. Following the return of the Jews after the Babylonian exile, synagogues were built in any town, city or village where there were at least 12 men. These were the "preaching-prayer houses". Jesus read the lesson and preached in the synagogue of Nazareth; St Paul used buildings extensively. The Christians followed this ancient tradition and built churches after c.334.

A church should stand in a parish as an ikon that God is here, and that the gospel of Christ is proclaimed through word and sacrament when the people gather.

Sadly, the modern cult to reorder has left some looking like a consecrated coffee-bar, and others akin to a band-practice room. This is one reason why the faculty system exists.

Sound-bites make ready reading but do not necessarily reflect the truth.

ARTHUR J. DOBB
97 Turton Heights
Bromley Cross
Bolton BL2 3DU

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