The Archbishop of York, Most Rev Stephen Cottrell has highlighted the importance of church buildings in communities across the UK.
Writing in the Times newspaper, he said the impact of church buildings “extends far beyond the gathering of the faithful” and emphasised the Church’s mission to “show the heart of Jesus in a world of so much hurt, confusion and uncertainty”.
“Our church buildings allow us to offer sanctuary in the midst of the community.
“The open doors of a church in a busy city centre beckon the weary to a place of peace and quiet, an oasis for the commuter at the start and end of the working day, a place to pray, or simply sit in silence, or have a cup of tea, a biscuit and a natter.
“Of course, the church building is inseparable from the Church: the offer of hospitality is central to the Christian faith and the value of the church building can be seen in how this hospitality is shown in the community. In many places, the church hall hosts community playgroups, exercise classes, youth groups, a foodbank, and other help for local people, making it a bustling hub of activity,” he continued.
For Archbishop Stephen, this explains why so many people who are not part of the congregation feel passionate about church buildings.
“They tell at least a part of our story and our history, as places to remember loved ones, commemorate events and gather together. The stones of the building have a long memory, and so church buildings are far more than merely bricks and mortar,” he added.
Drawing a comparison with the biblical story of Nehemiah, the cupbearer to the king called to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, Archbishop Stephen encouraged Christian to protect places of worship.
“Throughout the story, Nehemiah refuses to lose hope. Again and again, leaders plot to derail the rebuilding of the wall. Nehemiah rallies his people to work and to pray, to rebuild the walls.
“The city walls were needed for protection, for the safety of the city and the temple. And so the walls of church buildings need to be preserved for the sake of the people and for the Kingdom of God.
“Just as the steeples rise into the city skyline, so hope should rise from the message of the Church, a place of safety, a sanctuary, a gathering place, a community hub,” he said.
He concluded: “So, what are we doing? What are we building? Brick by brick, we care for our buildings, our people, and our community as we continue to build the Kingdom of God.”