"Do we need church buildings? We are struggling in a small village to
maintain a medieval church, and it occupies all our time."
HOW we think about our churches is critical to what we do with them. When a
church building becomes too great a burden, a possibility is disposing of it.
Contemporary culture teaches us to think predominantly for the present.
Most of us have moved on from the design era of "form follows function"
which dominated architecture for a generation.
In contrast, most of our churches were designed as sacred space, set aside
for meeting with God. Church buildings were designed to reflect and support the
enormity of the event inside the walls.
Buildings that push our senses and imagination to new levels also push us
beyond our bound-aries to seek a God who is greater than we are. Rather than
producing little functional spaces that suit our religious meetings, I would
like us to be building churches that use every skill available in 21st-century
architecture to inspire and encourage us to know that God is beyond, above, and
deeper in us than we can ever know. Isn’t that what St Paul’s Cathedral is
about? You meet an infinite God in a great building, and an uninspiring God in
a prosaic building.
Buildings in which prayers and sacraments have been shared for hundreds of
years have a heavy sense of the presence of God among us, however small our
numbers may be. The building itself, bearing its sacred quality, becomes part
of a ministry of presence, something challenging, beautiful, and inspiring,
standing in any local community, to engage people in subtle ways, whether they
enter the building or not.
David Knights of the Council for the Care of Churches has assured me of a
less bleak scenario on organ fund-raising than the one mentioned in my column a
few weeks ago (20 May).
The Heritage Lottery Fund, through its funding stream for features and
fittings up to £50,000, is helping to fund some Victorian church organs with
repair budgets in the £40-60,000 range.
Your application must show how you will increase access and educational
opportunity through the project. Organ recitals and access programmes for
school projects are the kind of thing that churches are developing. The website
www. bios.org.uk is helpful, and David Knights would be happy to hear from you
also if you need further guidance.
Maggie Durran can be contacted at