How to secure the future of religious heritage

A five point plan to secure the future of the Spain’s church buildings has been set out by the National Churches Trust. Can the rest of Europe benefit from the recommendations of the Trust’s plan? We are finding out by highlighting the key findings of the review:

1. Prioritise the maintenance of church buildings.

It is often more cost-effective to look after historic churches through regular maintenance rather than having to undertake often expensive structural repairs because the condition of a building has been allowed to deteriorate.

2. Make more churches centres for the community.
More churches need modern facilities, such as toilets, kitchens and heating. Modern facilities mean that church buildings can be used as venues for the arts, leisure, social action and other community activities and can host facilities such as post offices and libraries.

3. Put churches firmly on the visitor and tourist map.
Churches, chapels and meeting houses are treasure houses of heritage and history and much more should be done to help churches attract visitors. As well as bringing new people through the doors, attracting visitors brings with it additional income through donations and gift purchases.

4. Create a one-stop shop for churches applying for funding for repairs and maintenance.
The Spain’s churches will always require funding from a variety of sources to pay for repairs, maintenance and new facilities. But churches seeking funding have to navigate a complex web of grant-giving trusts, foundations and heritage organisations to access the money they need.

5. Open church buildings every day.
Church buildings need to be open every day so the public can enjoy their beauty, history and sense of prayerfulness. There is still a widespread view that churches need to be kept locked to prevent theft or vandalism. But an open church can often be safer as the local community then becomes more engaged with the building.