Churches matter in the present and for the future

Published: Friday, June 29, 2018


Sermon by The Right Reverend Nicholas Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Incorporated Church Building Society

Churches matter in the present and for the future, The Right Reverend Nicholas Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury has said in a sermon given at St Paul's Cathedral, London on  Tuesday 26 June 2018 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Incorporated Church Building Society.

The service was attended by special guests including His Royal Highness, The Duke of Gloucester and The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York.

The Right Reverend Nicholas Holtam said:

"Two hundred years ago, not long after the Napoleonic wars had disturbed the politics of Europe, at a time of industrial revolution, great poverty, political ferment and social change, the Incorporated Church Building Society set about building and enlarging thousands of churches and chapels to provide hundreds of thousands of free pews for a rapidly growing population."

"Thanks to a familiar combination of hard work and generosity, the National Churches Trust distributes about £1.4 million a year and those grants to churches and chapels of every denomination across the United Kingdom have an astonishing capacity to match and lever other funding - £90 million at today’s prices since 1953 to 12,000 churches."

"Even more important is the NCT’s encouragement to explore churches, spread knowledge, expertise and good practice and the development of the new Maintenance Booker service."

"Individual parishioners contribute around £100 million a year to church repairs. The Heritage Lottery Fund has in the past contributed around £20 million a year and the Government through schemes such as the roof repair fund has been generous as they have with the reclaiming of VAT but the future is uncertain. The Taylor Review on the sustainability of English churches and cathedrals is important but there will be no more grants to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War and the funding of roofs has come to an end. The decision of the Heritage Lottery Fund not to fund churches as a specific category means that for the first time in forty years there is no public money ring-fenced for churches."

"In many communities the church is the building around which the community has been formed. In Salisbury, in the wake of the poisoning of the Skripals and the violation of the city, the cathedral and the churches have been the places of gathering and have given stability. Similar happened in Southwark and Manchester, as after every public atrocity."

"The 200th anniversary of the ICBS is not an exercise in nostalgia or just a thanksgiving for what has been achieved in the past, good and important though that is. This is an opportunity for us to say why churches matter in the present and for the future. We rededicate ourselves, for mixed motives, to good purpose, because our society, God’s world, would be so much the poorer without them. Church buildings are to God’s glory and the common good. We value them highly, give thanks for all who care for them, today especially the Incorporated Church Building Society and the continuing work of the National Churches Trust."

Full text of The Right Reverend Nicholas Holtam's sermon

About the Incorporated Church Building Society

The Incorporated Church Building Society was set up to help build and enlarge Anglican churches in England and Wales.  Between 1818 and 1982 it gave 14,356 grants to churches, helping to pay for the building and enlargement of many thousands of churches.  It was also at the forefront of the battle for ‘free’ pews and its funding contributed to adding over two million pew spaces, most of which were free seats for all, in contrast to the then customary provision of private pews and the reliance on pew rents.

In 2013, the ICBS was absorbed into the National Churches Trust, a charity which supports church and chapel buildings of all denominations throughout the UK.