Save our churches! The case for conservation

  • Raise the Roof Church Great Rissington

Why we must look after our historic Cotswold churches – and how to raise the money

Over in the beautiful Cotswold village of Great Rissington, a familiar story is underway. The church roof needs repairs; the fundraising team leaps into action. An evening of music with the Thornbury Swing Band took place on 22nd September.

Our historic buildings need much loving care. Much of England’s cultural heritage is bound up in its centuries-old churches and cathedrals – some 45% of all Grade I listed buildings in the country are churches.

No matter how ancient they grow, these venerable buildings still serve the community - hosting gatherings, weddings and the traditional religious services. Yet the cost of their upkeep is immense. The Church of England is asset rich yet cash poor; donations are of crucial importance in holding back the ravages of time.

Whatever your religious allegiances, keeping our historic churches in good condition is in the interests of all. Much will be lost if we let our churches rot – here in the Cotswolds, we know that only too well.

Some of our churches have dramatic stories to tell: St Edward’s Church in Stow-on-the-Wold was once used to contain around a thousand prisoners following the Royalist defeat at the close of the English Civil War.

Others have fascinating artworks or beautiful architecture to admire, such as St Nicholas Church in Oddington – where huge mediaeval murals reveal glimpses of angels and demons.

And some churches are the resting places of history’s most influential players. Katherine Parr, the final wife of Henry VIII, lies entombed in St Mary’s Church in the grounds of Sudeley Castle.

And all that’s to say nothing of the role of the village church in our rural communities – as places to get married, go to a Summer fete or remember the heroic dead tragically lost in wartime.

Studies show that England is an increasingly secular country. Yet we cannot afford to let our great monuments languish in disrepair. Whether you live beside a stately cathedral or a little parish church, to neglect the upkeep of our buildings is to forget our own history and to diminish our own communities.

After all, those who have been to Great Rissington’s heart-warming Christmas Eve services know that some things are irreplaceable.

How to Fundraise

There are more ways to raise money for our churches than just popping a couple of pounds in a collection plate.

Social gatherings are a great way to generate income. Quiz nights, coffee mornings, concerts, bake-athons, cake sales, charity car washes, film nights, sports day-style races, book sales, dog shows and car boot sales are all great, cheap ways to raise some cash for a good cause.

Sponsorship can also be very effective, especially when you use platforms like Just Giving to source online donations. Not all of us are capable of running marathons, so it’s a good thing many other activities are just as good to sponsor – whether it’s a knit-in, a walk or even a silence - !

Set a fundraising goal, suggested donations and communicate with your audience. Make sure all your family and friends know what you’re doing and why – social media platforms like Facebook are great to spread awareness and let people know your motivations, but don’t be afraid to pick up the phone or get people involved in-person.

Further Reading - the Church of England’s national resource - The Churches Conservation Trust is the national charity protecting churches at risk