Royal praise as the National Churches Trust celebrates 60th Anniversary at Westminster Abbey

The National Churches Trust’s 60th anniversary has been celebrated at a special service held at Westminster Abbey.


A capacity 2,180 tickets were issued for the service, which was attended by representatives of many of the places of worship supported by the National Churches Trust since its formation in 1953 as the Historic Churches Preservation Trust.

HM The Queen sent a message of congratulations to the charity, which was included in the Order of Service. In her message she said: ”As Patron of the National Churches Trust, I send my warmest congratulations to you on the occasion of your 60th anniversary. Since the foundation of the Historic Churches Preservation Trust in 1953, I have seen the excellent work you have undertaken to support historic church buildings in this country.  As you celebrate your Diamond Jubilee this year, I hope you will build on the Trust’s success and continue your important work which has such a positive impact on people’s lives and our communities.”

The service was attended by the Vice-Patron of the Trust, HRH The Duke of Gloucester KG GCVO, accompanied by HRH The Duchess of Gloucester GCVO.

Archbishop of Canterbury

The service was conducted by the Dean of Westminster, the Very Revd Dr John Hall and the Address was given the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd and Rt Hon Justin Welby.

In his Address, the Archbishop of Canterbury said:  “Buildings are being refurbished, reopened as places that call again with living hope to their communities more than at any time in the last 100 years. Cathedrals are commissioning more art than in living memory......These are all signs of the spirit of God at work, for where he is at work His creativity overflows into our buildings, our lives our people, our communities.”  

“Our buildings are opportunities and challenge, but handled well the opportunity knocks the challenge for six. This Trust has served them well, long may it continue to do so.”

“More churches are in better condition than for many years.. EM Forester in Howards End writes, 'only connect the prose and the passion and both will be exalted and human love will be seen at its height, live in fragments no longer.' “

“Churches at their best have the prose of maintenance and the passion of being places of meeting meting God. Too much of our discourse  is often about the fragments; only connect, join the dance, and not merely human but the divine love of Jesus Christ will be seen at its height.”

Geraldine James, Bear Gylls, Bettany Hughes

The actress Geraldine James OBE read 'Please Close this Door Quietly' a poem specially written for the service by  former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams. Television presenter and Chief Scout Bear Grylls and historian and broadcaster Bettany Hughes read passages from the scriptures.

The broadcaster and journalist Huw Edwards, who is also  a Vice-President of the National Churches Trust, presented the stories of three churches which have been supported by the charity. These featured interviews with representatives from St Mary de Castro, Leicester, Memorial Community Church, Plaistow and St David's Church, Llanddewi Aberarth.

Six banners illustrating the work of the National Churches Trust were processed through Westminster Abbey at the start of the service by bearers who included children from St-Martin-in-the-Fields High School, Tulse Hill, in south London.

Prayers were led by the Revd Dr James Hawkey, Minor Canon and Sacrist of Westminster Abbey, and said by the Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury and trustee of the National Churches Trust, the Rt Revd Lorna Hood, Moderator of the Church of Scotland, the Most Revd George Stack, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cardiff, the Revd Lord Griffiths of Burry Port, former President of the Methodist Conference, the Revd Professor Vernon White, Canon Theologian, Luke March, Chairman of the National Churches Trust and Claire Walker, Chief Executive of the National Churches Trust.   

The service was sung by the Special Service choir of Westminster Abbey, conducted by James O’Donnell, Organist and Master of the Choristers at the Abbey.

Luke March , Chairman of the National Churches Trust said:

“The National Churches Trust is the only national, independent, non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting and supporting church buildings of historic, architectural, and community value across the United Kingdom.”

“Thanks to the generosity of our Friends, donors and supporters, since 1953, we have provided twelve thousand grants and loans to ensure the good repair of churches, chapels, and meeting houses of many Christian denominations, and funded modern facilities to ensure that they can serve the needs of local communities.”

“Over the next sixty years, the National Churches Trust will continue to ensure that churches throughout the UK remain in good repair for worship, of benefit to local people, and of interest to visitors exploring their fascinating art, architecture, and history. “