New Uses for Old Churches

Whether we have faith or not, we all love church buildings.  It’s easy to understand why – they are one of the focal points of any town they’re in, they’re in a great central location, and they’re instantly recognisable to the community. So why are communities slow to take them on for their own purposes when they’re made redundant?

Our Director Susan went to London on Monday to discuss the issue with representatives from the rest of the UK. We agreed that while we’re all coming from different perspectives – faith, built environment, communities – we all know that something has to be done to address groups’ concerns about getting involved with these kinds of buildings. We acknowledged the sad truth that, on a practical level, it won’t be possible to save all churches, but we agreed that if we work together, we might be able to do more to encourage new uses that might save the building in the long term.

There are so many benefits to reusing a church building, when we realise the opportunities they can provide:

  • building more cohesive communities through a multi-functional community hub
  • Bringing new people and new interests into a community through an unusual use
  • promoting civic pride and identity through their reuse for commercial means
  • fostering local cultural and artistic outputs through the clever reuse of their spaces

At the London meeting, we agreed that we would work towards a national campaign to promote the reuse of church buildings for community enterprises, with specifically Scottish examples. We’ll do this by coordinating with other stakeholders in Scotland to make sure the message gets spread as far as possible, and we’ll also provide mentoring support for interested groups through our My Place Mentoring scheme. If you know of a group who might be interested on taking on all or part of their local church, drop us a line and we’ll take it from there! In the meantime, keep out for the launch of the national campaign – likely to be early in the New Year.

Image: St. Margaret’s Braemar, ©Anne Burgess