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Prepared for publication April 2016
Parish Church Interiors Conference December 2015
Prepared for publication April 2016
legal processes require. A national searchable da...
Prepared for publication April 2016
The existing legal models for community managemen...
Prepared for publication April 2016
b. Fixtures and fittings
Several comments reflect...
Prepared for publication April 2016
• A Royal Commission to get Government to conside...
Prepared for publication April 2016
Consolidated post conference responses from 35 at...
Prepared for publication April 2016
to my own understanding of how fittings such as s...
Prepared for publication April 2016
• Similar event but with focus on the challenges ...
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Parish Church Interiors in Changing Times Summary of conference feedback and evaluation April 2016


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Feed back and evaluation of a conference on the historic building aspects of "Parish Church Interiors in Changing Times", Supported by Historic England

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Parish Church Interiors in Changing Times Summary of conference feedback and evaluation April 2016

  1. 1. 1 Prepared for publication April 2016 Parish Church Interiors Conference December 2015 Throughout the conference participants were encouraged to make comments and offer feedback as they wished on flip charts and sheets provided on tables. In addition, formal evaluation sheets (using the Historic England standard format) were sent out to participants after the conference. The following is a summary of the rich and constructive contributions made during and after the event. Summary of comments collected during the conference Key Topics 1. The need for training and guidance 2. Systems and processes 3. Significance and value 4. Specific requests or suggestions for action 1. The need for training and guidance (17 separate comments) a. For clergy The biggest single group of comments related to the need for clergy to be trained so they have a ‘high level understanding of how they can use the significance of a church building for mission by engaging with heritage, not working against it’. There were suggestion that the training should be in ‘theologically attuned language’ and that it should be provided as part of their initial three years of training so they could ‘appreciate, think through and understand the spiritual and historical context’. Practical training on how to ‘manage, look after and develop church buildings’ was also proposed. There was a particular comment that Archdeacons ‘should have special building training and a career path in the church that supports that’. b. For Amenity Societies Amenity Societies could be encouraged to recognise the mission priorities of the church. Comments were also made as to whether they were fit for purpose as statutory consultees ‘They seem under-staffed, under-resourced and slow to respond. Not always in the ‘real world’ either’. c. For congregations There was general recognition that there is plenty of guidance available but that more needs to be done to ensure congregations access and use it. It was pointed out that the ‘national literacy reading age is 12 years’ and that people need guidance that is not only tailored for them but also help to prepare the complex documents that the
  2. 2. 2 Prepared for publication April 2016 legal processes require. A national searchable database of case studies, particularly of buildings with extended uses, would be helpful. Several comments related to the need to make congregations aware of the benefits of early community engagement if changes are proposed. One suggested that looking at the research undertaken by museums might be helpful, since this focussed on why people didn’t use local museums and what could be done to attract them; the church might want to commission similar research or develop practical suggestions to help congregations engage more positively in their local communities. Similarly it was felt clergy and congregations needed more encouragement to ‘engage with amenity societies and Historic England, rather than fearing them’. 2. Systems and processes (27 separate comments) a. Consistency of decision-making There was a general sense that process could be positive: ‘ Process is key; lots of specialist knowledge, functioning buildings, local people’ but strong concerns about consistency nationally and between theory and practice. There was reference to ‘considerable anecdotal evidence that Chancellors vary in their judgments; is this true and does it matter?’ Others focussed on differences between DAC s in their processes and the advice given. There was also a view that the ‘elephant in the room’ was that ‘we are having a professional, well-argued discussion about decisions almost entirely made by uninformed amateurs’ but appreciation that a combination of experts and communities, provided there is effective communication, should produce good decisions. b. Statements of Significance and Need Several comments were made about the quality of Statements. Some questioned whether they would be improved by being written by being ‘professionalised’ but others felt the priority is to empower congregations to have better discussion and consultation before they started to write anything down. ‘Can CofE do more work on getting parishes to do statements early on and get advice where needed?’ There was also reference to Support Officers being involved and to Archdeacons prioritising the congregations that need most help. There was a suggestion that congregations should prepare draft statements before approaching architects so they have ‘something to assess architect responses against’ but another view was that congregations should get the architect on board first. c. Resourcing of the process There were some specific examples where lack of resources hindered congregations trying to understand their buildings, including the lack of maintenance for Church Plans Online. There was also comment that the Church of England’s Church Buildings Report advocates making changes and widening uses but doesn’t reflect the resource implications in the recommendations e.g. no reference to increased funding for community engagement, volunteer management, or feasibility studies. The perceived difference in resources available to congregations, the central church bodies and heritage bodies was identified, as was the need to help congregations open up the debate with their communities.
  3. 3. 3 Prepared for publication April 2016 The existing legal models for community management, use and sharing of buildings were flagged as having ‘problems… a lot more work needs to be done’ to make them fit for purpose. d. Public benefit and culture change ‘Public benefit is the survival of our historic churches for future generations to appreciate’, the community should not delegate involvement to local conservation officers but seek to be involved and to fund care for their parish church. There were calls for ‘collaborative spirit, more view of equal partnership rather than the congregation trying to sort out solutions’ so that it’s not ‘what churches can do for communities but working with communities and organisations’; ‘the church is not the PCC’s fiefdom to do as they wish’. The overall view was that cultural change is needed so that congregations recognise what they have inherited and their responsibilities to future generations about what they pass on after their time as custodians and trustees. ‘Can you value the past and adapt your liturgy to live with and make something of it… the privilege of caring for the creative (inspired) patrimony’. e. The need for evidence to support the process Good decision-making is ‘not about objectivity, it is about being evidence-based’. There was a call for better knowledge sharing, based on research including; 20th century interiors, moveable furniture, fixtures and fittings. Practical suggestions included: making Trevor Cooper’s Pew evaluation questionnaire widely available so congregations could use it early on in their development of plans for reordering and a ‘partnership of appropriate bodies to produce a pack of visual material relating to seating options to help congregations understand the longer-term implications of proposed changes e.g. ‘a photograph of a fifteen year old upholstered chair.’ 3. Significance and value (22 separate comments) a. Contested significance Comments ranged from those supporting change because ‘it has always been happening’ to those complaining about ‘Antiquarian prejudice against the real world and understanding of the recent past’. It was also pointed out that challenges for adaptation vary for different building types as amenities such as lavatories and kitchen are usually integral to post war church design and that some congregations, by their very nature, would rather gather in a warehouse. One comment reflected the view that ‘it is more important for a church to be hospitable and fit for the 21st century if it is to serve its neighbour’ but another protested about the opposition between congregations and the historic environment, pointing out that it is possible to be a member of both camps: ‘there are many church goers who love and value their historic church interiors and are fed up with liturgical changes and fabric reordering imposed from on high by clergy who apparently don’t know or care about what their congregations think or feel, and are include to ignore or bully into silence those who object. Reversibility is a good idea – when the Liturgical Movement is dead we can put things back!’
  4. 4. 4 Prepared for publication April 2016 b. Fixtures and fittings Several comments reflected on the need for as much evidence and understanding of fixtures and fittings as possible before decisions to remove them are made.‘ You should know what you have and how to understand it before seeking to change it’ and ‘Don’t take heritage in abundance for granted. It’s a finite resource with importance to local areas’. This was also reflected in the question ‘Does richer mean better?’ with an attached note requesting that significance should take into account ‘the value of the ordinary’. The investment of previous generations was also noted along with the fact that once thrown out these can never be recovered, ‘reorderings should always seek to retain and reserve fittings and fixtures, adapting pews etc., not removing them completely but making new from old, thus retaining the best.’ There was also concern that ‘The wrong people seem to be making decisions on interiors of churches. Surely they are not the PCC’s territory to decide on removing pews etc. as if it were their living room at home. Fixtures and fittings are an integral part of the listed building and their removal or retention is an architectural matter and should come from a thorough understanding and appreciation of the historic and architectural value of the interior.’ Two comments related to heating systems; ‘I never realised heating systems could be considered part of ‘significance’ and another raising concern about the lack of information about under floor heating ‘performance, cost, historic floors’. c. Intangible heritage The issue of intangible heritage was implicit in much of the discussion and some observations but there were three particular observations about its contribution to significance. Two questioned whether emotional, spiritual, religious, political, social and ‘sentimental’ importance is given adequate weight in assessing significance. A third suggested that when additional uses for a church building are being considered its role as a counter-cultural quiet space apart should be taken into consideration. A fourth comment raised the importance of good design as a contribution to the character of a place: ‘Carefully designed space may be better than freeform flexible space for parish discipline. Anglicanism abhors a vacuum and fills in with junk’. 4. Specific requests or suggestions for action a. Historic England (5 direct requests on four topics) • Guidance to help congregations understand the technical issues particular to 20th century buildings. • Could HE organise/convene smaller versions of this conference on a regional basis? They should involve other denominations and faiths, officers and professionals, to share good practice and experience. They might best be targeted on a specific generic/admin process or topic rather than a professional heritage topic, which is meet by others like EASA or DAC Secretaries. • Please can conference papers be made available quickly as pdfs without footnotes or dressing up – not as a form publication which is expensive and time-consuming to produce?
  5. 5. 5 Prepared for publication April 2016 • A Royal Commission to get Government to consider funding models, raise the profile of church building issues and ensure there is a high level debate, particularly with regard to the role of the state. The CofE has acknowledged that there is a problem with rural churches; other than by a Royal Commission how will views of the mass of the public be heard in establishing a sustainable solution?1 b. Church of England • ‘Better training for vicars on heritage and the significance of their buildings. There is good guidance on the ChurchCare site but more is needed, especially for new vicars, to help them get a better understanding of QIs, repair and maintenance. • More consistency in process and decision-making between DACs so people who have lived in one diocese and move to another don’t find they have to relearn everything. • Guidance on and promotion of the legal options for using/managing/sharing buildings – not just model leases but Trusts, lasting partnership, ownership, patronage – and the need to future-proof any arrangements. • Active promotion to DACs and clergy of courses already available in the sector such as the OUCE course Parish Churches; Significance and Use c. Amenity Societies and wider historic sector • Build on Faith in Maintenance 1 NB In his March budget the Chancellor announced a Taskforce to consider the funding and maintenance of cathedrals and church buildings, which is also included in the Cultural White Paper 2016
  6. 6. 6 Prepared for publication April 2016 Consolidated post conference responses from 35 attendees • Being more vocal about the issues facing church communities. • I am a church architect and the conference has helped me to assess our approach to certain aspects of our projects. • Decisions about C19 church interiors I make will be better informed. • We will encourage PCCs to compile a statement of significance before any design work be done. • Research more into the history of the individual church and the needs of the congregation. • Academic purpose. • I will use the connections I have made and knowledge of the many disparate organisations involved in the conservation of historic churches. • Guidance to parishes in undertaking a development project for their church building, e.g. in relation to faculty, procedure and fundraising. Looking forward to seeing the notes/summary from the conference. Also gave me idea for training sessions to deliver in my diocese. • In site discussions with parish representatives I hope it will help me assess the relative importance/significance of the church interiors so I can understand the implications of proposed changes and advise appropriately. • What I learnt and the discussions I had during the breaks and mealtimes will contribute enormously to my freelance work that I am currently doing -all to do with sustaining historic places of worship. One of the most useful and worthwhile, and for me very relevant, conferences i have attended. • In advising parishes appropriately on drawing up statements of significance and developing proposals for changes to their church buildings. • It was helpful to have a bit more information on the organisation structure of HE and CoE in regard to altering/listing church buildings. I can now apply this
  7. 7. 7 Prepared for publication April 2016 to my own understanding of how fittings such as stained glass windows, which are not themselves listed, and often removed from church buildings for various reasons, fit into the bigger picture. • In providing advice to church volunteers regarding reordering proposals. • In strategic approach to managing change across my area of work. • I think it will help in considering schemes before the DAC. I still don't think I have a clear picture of how best protect our heritage, change being the watch- word now. • As a reflective practitioner, there was a lot to help one to nuance one's own approach to helping churches, and in a curious way it was Gillard's research that offered the most useful information despite the tiny sample at its base. • Reassessing approach to reordering interiors. • In determining applications for faculties. In setting up a support fund for a particular Grade 1 listed church with a regular congregation in single figures. • The conference raised some interesting points that will be useful to my current research; particularly regarding different views and some of the issues surrounding these types of buildings. • The section on the historic heating system was thought-provoking and the lessons of the fire-damaged church in Coventry Diocese, too, though for different reasons. Both give food for thought… • Even more thoughtful and constructive attitude to church casework - am already implementing with my team. • To update quinquennial inspections to include information on the Victorian alterations. When working on listed structures I will be more certain when dealing with layers/provenance over centuries. • The conference has raised my awareness of Victorian architects, interiors and furnishings which will be of considerable help to me when developing projects for funding church repairs and undertaking re-orderings and improvements. • It has certainly enhanced my understanding and appreciation of C19 churches, which will alter my approach to them. It was interesting to hear the various arguments and opinions-not only from the panel speakers but also the many well informed audience members. • I have discovered more, useful people to confer with and share ideas with. 6. What other events would you like to see offered by Historic England? Follow up events • There needs to be a follow up - maybe not a conference -maybe workshops at local level with the diocese?
  8. 8. 8 Prepared for publication April 2016 • Similar event but with focus on the challenges of post-war churches -are the issues the same? • Conference on the identification of Significance. The importance of engaging and involving the public more in conservation. • Workshop/Consultation on key issues facing places of worship. Understanding significance of a building • A similar theme conference, but aimed at the church i.e. archdeacons, clergy, PCC members etc. looking at the same theme from their perspective. • I would welcome further events concerning places of worship of this quality and involving a similar mix of professions - perhaps looking at a technical aspect of the care and development of the buildings in which HE has research involvement and technical expertise (e.g. heating?). • More like this - continue a wider engage though. Why not bring in others from universities and other heritage bodies and museums to also speak? • The philosophical aesthetics of architecture and the theology of place. • Funding models for independent support groups of listed church buildings. • Events focused on building fabric - churches or civic buildings. Also an even focusing on Country Estates, houses, parks and recent developments -fabric, landscape and interiors. • We should have a similar conference focusing on non-Anglican places of worship. • More of the same - for example different period related interiors, Georgian, medieval etc.; Specific topics • Conservation; materials and stained glass. • Anything on local architects such as Northampton's EF Law. • Energy efficiency and historic buildings (avoiding condensation risks). • Consideration of impact of renewables on setting and accuracy of visualisations provided to assess setting issues. • Specifics on different aspects of redeveloping an historic place of worship e.g. lighting, heating etc. • Technical update on materials and techniques.