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Not so great an expectation

27 June 2014

Our trust is regularly asked, in relation to our grant-making, why we fund lavatories in church, when we have managed 1000 years and more without them.

LIFE moves on. You might just as well ask why we need flush lavatories in our homes, and don't any longer retire to a rough patch of ground at the end of the garden. We had no lavatories when I went to church as a child, and we nipped behind a convenient gravestone. Remember those buckets with a wooden seat that were at the end of the school playground? Much to be avoided, if at all possible.

Expectations have changed. Think of all those holiday destinations that have rapidly turned to Western-style flushable lavatories in order to improve the visitor experience. If we want visitors - some of whom, at least, may come again - we have to provide a suitable experience.

Because most large shops, town centres, stations, and public places have lavatories, people no longer insist on a last visit to the lavatory before leaving the house. There is no reason why churches should choose to step outside this cultural norm. We want to offer a welcome to all; and, in these days, when so many younger newcomers have never visited a church before, we are not in a position to question the expectation that facilities will be in place.

Saying that lavatories are not needed is like saying: "We don't need disabled facilities: we don't have any disabled people coming to church." Of course you don't: they check the available facilities, and stay away.

Many parents of young children will expect to find some facilities. Elderly people may require the facilities, or stay at home for fear of embarrassing themselves. With ageing populations and ageing congregations, we have to change.

So, even if the congregation can cope, consider the young, the elderly, the disabled, and all those people who might use the church for funerals and weddings - they all want to feel welcome. After all, church buildings have changed and developed throughout their history, by providing seating and lighting, for example; we can make it work for a new generation.

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