The Church of England’s (CofE) Diocese of Birmingham was founded in 1905. It covers an area of nearly 300 square miles in the West Midlands, including all of the City of Birmingham and parts of Solihull, Sandwell, Dudley, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Staffordshire.
Birmingham is the UK’s second largest city, with the youngest urban population, in one of the most lively and diverse regions of the country. Right at the heart of what we do are 182 places of worship with an average weekly attendance of 17,000, from a population of 1.5 million. In these churches are clergy and worshipers representing a broad range of cultures and Christian traditions.
The fabric condition of the 166 church buildings in the diocese (17 of which are listed at Grade 1, 31 at Grade 2* and 49 at Grade 2) was assessed in both 2012 and 2017 through a survey of their latest building inspection reports. In 2012, 74% of churches had an overall condition of ‘Good’ or ‘Fair’, while 17% were in a ‘Poor’ or ‘Very Bad’ state. By 2017, the number of buildings in ‘Good’ or ‘Fair’ condition had reduced to 68%, while the buildings that were ‘Poor’ or ‘Very Bad’ had increased to 30%. At the time of the 2017 assessment, the total estimated cost of repairs needed to all 168 church buildings was over £28million.
At the start of 2017, the diocese was offered a substantial grant by the Church Commissioners to support a new phase of its major mission initiative, known as Transforming Church. In this next phase of Transforming Church, the diocese aims to build on the vital work done since 2009 so that the good news of Jesus Christ can take root at a deeper level and that the gifts of more people, both ordained and lay, can be released. One of the key strands of Transforming Church involves promoting a Church which is visible, accessible and welcoming. As our church buildings are such important, visual symbols of the presence of the Church of England, and much of its spiritual life and social engagement happens in and around them, there is now a great opportunity to develop them further as modern places of worship and community, while also addressing their significant repair needs and improving engagement with them as part of the wider, historic, built environment.
The key objectives of the Historic Places of Worship Support Officer (PoWSO) role are:
To assist Parochial Church Councils (PCCs) of targeted listed churches in the planning and funding of appropriate developments to their buildings, and in organising repair and conservation works of a suitable standard, to ensure that the practical requirements of the modern users of a living place of worship and mission are met in a way that complements and celebrates its historic value. Support in securing grant funding will be a major aim, particularly following the closure of the Heritage Lottery Fund’s ‘Grants for Places of Worship’ programme.
To support PCCs in developing their buildings to be fit for purpose for the ministry and mission to which God has called them. This includes helping them to:
Plan robust and considered Statements of Significance and Needs for their buildings, as vital vison statements and tools to inform development opportunities;
Enable their churches to be open as much as possible throughout the week for use by the congregation and the wider community, and to give access to quiet spaces for private prayer;
Keep their churches well maintained, warm and welcoming;
Ensure that the running costs are considered for the full lifecycle of a project, including the carrying out of an up-to-date scheme of inspection and regular maintenance, to secure a sustainable financial future for the church;
Develop flexible spaces that can be used throughout the week for a wide range of worship and community needs for all, including the provision of safe and attractive spaces for children, families and young people;
Realise fully the building’s mission and engagement opportunities through developing interpretive and interactive materials for visitors, in both physical and online form, to enhance their appreciation of the spiritual and historic significance of the space;
Establish clear external signage that is visible, informative and appealing; and
Address accessibility and other issues associated with welcoming those with additional needs so that everyone can access the hospitality of the Church.
To work to address the clear and urgent need to support and engage PCCs in the introduction of baseline fabric management processes for their churches, to ensure that annual planned preventative maintenance for each building is carried out regularly and for the long term.
To work in conjunction with PCCs and Historic England’s ‘Heritage at Risk’ (HAR) Team to remove buildings from the HAR Register.
In the initial 2 years of the project, the target is that:
Major development projects to enable churches buildings to be more open and offer enhanced amenities to the local community will be well established at strategic listed churches, with particular consideration of the provision of high quality spaces for children and young people where appropriate, and with external grant funding in place.
PCCs with responsibility for a listed church building will have a greater understanding of its potential in terms of extending welcome, and will have improved their transferable skills in its care and best use. Strategic listed churches will have developed a robust Statements of Significance, to help inform and support future development and community engagement.
Long-term programmes for regular, planned preventative maintenance will be in place and being carried out for:
All churches on Historic England’s HAR Register;
All listed churches identified as being in ‘Poor’ or ‘Very Bad’ condition in the 2017 survey; and
All churches that seek permission to undertake significant development and/or repair projects.
To contribute to the CofEB’s emerging Buildings Strategy and any potential bid to funding organisations to help finance related projects. The CofEB is currently exploring a new framework for the deployment of ministry and the creation of strategic hubs for mission, which could benefit from a funding bid to help support any facilitating building developments.
The day-to-day responsibilities of the PoWSO will be:
To support PCCs in realistic and sensitive planning to realise the full potential of their historic church buildings for mission and wider community engagement, to identify the capital requirements for both development and repair projects, and to set out a model for sustainable and ongoing revenue generation;
To identify grants to support church building development and repair, and to assist PCCs in making applications for these grants;
To support PCCs in the appointment of professionals and contractors as part of development and repair projects, in accordance with the appropriate public procurement regulations, and to assist in liaising between the PCC and its paid professionals;
To help PCCs in following the necessary procedures to secure all of the appropriate approvals before carrying out a building development or repair project;
To advise PCCs in the effective maintenance of their church buildings;
To liaise with Historic England’s HAR Team to ensure a considered and proactive approach to the churches most at risk, and to develop and implement proposals that would see their removal from the HAR Register.
To encourage congregations to engage with welcome training and the development of visitor packs;
To work with community groups, local authorities and other organisations to promote the potential of church buildings as community resources, and to generate revenue;
To assist the CofEB’s Property Team in reviewing the five-yearly church inspection reports, to help identify buildings that would benefit from further support;
To work to compile quantitative and qualitative data on cases, with case studies, to provide evidence to form the basis of a potential future funding bids to provide central, targeted church building development support to PCCs beyond the 2 years of the current project;
To develop personal and professional skills through training, and to maintain familiarity with current developments in the conservation of church buildings as places of mission and ministry, as well as for wider community use.
MANAGEMENT AND RELATIONSHIPS
The PoWSO will work within the CofEB’s central office as part of the Property Team, under the management of the Director of Property. Within the Team, the PoWSO will work closely with the Care of Churches Officer and the Director of Community Regeneration. In addition, the PoWSO will need to liaise regularly with Historic England’s HAR Team at their offices in central Birmingham.
Within the wider office, the PoWSO will also need to liaise closely with the Diocesan Secretary, the Archdeacons of the diocese and the Mission, Education and Communications Teams, as appropriate for the needs and objectives of a given project.
The PoWSO will be expected to develop working relationships with external stakeholders such as local authorities, funders and community organisations.
The substantial part of the PoWSO’s role will require developing working relationships outside of the office, on-site at various churches. As such, there will be frequent contact with clergy, churchwardens and members of the PCC and congregation with responsibility for historic church buildings.
A successful PoWSO candidate will have:
A relevant degree or professional qualification/s in property or construction and proven practical experience in the management, development and conservation of the living historic environment;
A clear interest in supporting England’s historic places of worship to be welcoming and attractive places for all ages that mirror the welcome of Christ;