Bishop Colin (left) pictured with Basil Eastwood, Chairman of the Oxfordshire Historic Churches Trust and Becky Payne who wrote Churches for Communities. Photo and words by Jo Duckles.
CHURCHES are being reshaped to once again become the central hubs of communities across the UK.
And some of the best examples have been highlighted in a book published as part of the 50th Anniversary of the Oxfordshire Historic Churches Trust.
Post offices, village shops and community centres are relocating into churches as they are redeveloped to retain their authenticity as sacred places of worship while becoming useful on a more practical level. Churches for Communities highlights 25 of these projects. The book, written by Becky Payne, formerly the Policy Officer at the Church of England’s Cathedral and Church Buildings Division illustrates changes taking by focusing on places of worship in the towns and villages of Oxfordshire. The very significant reshaping of these historic churches has been undertaken to meet modern worship needs, to enable the buildings to be used for a wide range of community activities and, increasingly, to deliver vital community services. These projects reconnect the churches with their communities and provide them with a more sustainable future.
Here are stories from the incumbents and the teams, largely of volunteers, who have given their time and energy to raise millions of pounds and to work through the challenges involved in adapting an historic place of worship. We hope that other churches embarking on similar projects will derive inspiration and benefit from the achievements and experiences described here.
In his foreword, the Bishop of Dorchester, the Rt Revd Colin Fletcher, says: “My hope is that this book will help Church Councils and others catch a vision for how their church can best serve its community – and how it can be adapted for doing so where that is needed.” The book was launched at the prestigious Blackwells Bookshop on Oxford’s historic Broad Street on Wednesday, February 19th 2014