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Thousands of UK churches sold, demolished, or converted into housing over the last 10 years

by Kelly Valencia

New research has revealed the number of churches of all denominations across the UK being open and used has reduced by thousands in the last decade.

In 2011, there were around 42,000 churches opened with an active congregation, but that number has lowered to 39,800 in 2021, according to the Brierley Consultancy.

The study is part of a campaign by The National Churches Trust to highlight how churches are being sold, demolished or converted into housing.

Claire Walker, the trust’s chief executive, told the Telegraph isolated areas of Scotland and Wales have been very affected.

“This is a shame, because it is where they are most needed,” she said. “They are the beating heart of villages, towns and cities. But they are also often the only places that are open in some communities where the village pub, shop and library have gone.”

‘The Future of the UK's Churches Buildings’ campaign is being backed by Sir Michael Palin, vice president of the trust.

He said Covid restrictions have resulted “in reduced funding and fewer worshippers” which has “clouded the future” for many churches.

“Yet churches remain a vital and much-loved part of the UK's history and heritage and we can't let them fall into neglect and disuse.

“There is hope. More and more churches are adapting to the modern world and the needs of their communities, providing not just spiritual comforts but a range of valuable services to local people such as foodbanks and youth clubs.

“We must build on this and encourage people of all sorts and from all backgrounds to find hope and relevance in their local churches,” Sir Palin continued.

A national survey has also been launched on the importance of church buildings in the UK as the charity wants to create a national debate “to help safeguard the future of the UK's local churches”.  

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