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England: Some Churches May Open Only on 'Festival' Days

10-17-2015

The Church of England is considering a radical plan to close thousands of historic village churches, opening them only on major holidays like Christmas and Easter.

The Church says a "festival church" concept will need to be analyzed but could provide a way to utilize buildings in communities that can no longer support heavy maintenance burdens.

The Church of England's new report focuses on 16,000 church buildings. Many are in rural areas and have an attendance of less than 37 people.

The report examines the financial burden that many of these congregations face in maintaining their historic buildings and suggests "festival churches" as a good option.

Fewer than 800,000 worshippers attend a Church of England church on an average Sunday, less than half the worshippers that attended in the 1960s.

More than 33 million people in England and Wales list Christianity as their religion in the latest government census. That is a decline of more than 4 million from the last census in 2001.

John Inge, bishop of Worcester, oversaw the new report and acknowledged the complicated path forward.

"We believe that, apart from growing the church, there is no single solution to the challenges posed by our extensive responsibility for part of the nation's heritage," he explained.

"We hope therefore that this work will be a catalyst for discussion about how churches can be better cared for and used for the common good," he said.

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