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What is a Festival Church?
A Festival Church is a church building which is not used for weekly worship, but is valued and required by the community for local events and for Festivals of the Church and for Rites of Passage (Baptisms, Weddings, Funerals).
These Festivals include Christmas, Easter and Harvest Festival, but also local festivals, Saints’ days, Mothers’ Day, Remembrance Sunday, Rogation Days, etc. A list of festivals and appropriate material is available from the Church of England website here.
The Festival Church model is intended to imply a church that is actively seeking to involve more people from its community both in the care and maintenance of the church building, and in the life of the church community, through both worship and secular events.
Festival churches are not:
- Closing or ‘Mothballing’ by another name
- A way to avoid Parish Share
- Locked up for 359 days of the year
- Churches which can only be used for a maximum of six services
Festival Churches are:
- A key recommendation of the 2015 Church Buildings Review
- The subject of a change to Canon Law (Canons B11 and B14) which was passed by Synod in February 2017, becoming law in February 2019
- Open Churches, a key part of the Church Buildings Council “Open and Sustainable Churches” campaign, together with Resource Churches and Major Churches
Festival Churches are intended to be fully open and sustainable, but especially socially open, presenting a view of churches as social hubs and centres of communities. Church of England churches belong to everyone in the parish, not just the worshipping congregation.
Does a Festival Church have a different pattern of worship?
Each individual church needs to hold a minimum of six services a year to be considered a place of regular worship in the legals sense, but can hold as many as it wishes, including occasional offices
Not all churches that choose to alter their patterns of worship will become Festival Churches – and this name is not a legal one, so dioceses may choose to call this category something else.
How does a church become a Festival Church?
Whilst there are many, many ways of being a Festival Church, there are a few key steps to actually becoming one. It must be part of a conversation and consultation with community, deanery and diocese. It cannot happen in isolation.
Step 1: Consult within your community, parish, benefice and Deanery, involve your Archdeacon and Area Dean
Step 2: Seek and pass a PCC Resolution to ask the Bishop to vary the service pattern, with a minimum of six services a year, ensuring a service is offered in one church in the benefice
Step 3: Submit a letter to the Bishop, appending the resolution and proof of the consultation outlined in Step 1 and the conditions given in Step 2, for their consent.
Templates for the resolution and letter to the bishop are available in our Document section.
How is a Festival Church managed?
Changes in governance are possible; Trusts can be formed to not only look after the fabric of the building, but use the space inside and around it. Setting up a trust may be one way of Festival Churches managing their buildings. There are three main types already in existence:
Type 1: Passive – “Friends” who raise money – informal arrangement
Type 2: Active – “Friends” who raise money and help with repairs, maintenance, development – formal arrangement such as memorandum of understanding
Type 3: Managing Trust – takes over work of maintenance and/or management of building, sometimes leasing part of it from PCC under contract
Deciding what might be best for a church, or a group of churches, will require extensive consultation with the diocese, other churches in the deanery or benefice, and with local people. Archdeacons and the DAC and DMPC would good first ports of call.
What does the Association of Festival Churches do?
The AFC is an unincorporated Association with its own constitution, its own officers and its own programme. It works closely with Church House to help support churches using the Festival Church model, and work with dioceses who are engaging with it.
What kind of insurance does a Festival Church need?
Festival Churches may require a different level of insurance from churches operating on more traditional models, so there is a need to think about cost and level of insurance required. Is 100% insurance to cover the costs of reinstatement needed, or instead an option simply for repair or just clearance of the site it the building were to suffer a catastrophe? The is of course still a need for incumbent’s insurance and public liability, and perhaps for other types as well. It is wise to consult specialist insurance companies, the Archdeacon and DAC. If a group of churches is being managed by a trust then there might be potential for collective buying to further bring down insurance costs.
The Church Buildings Council is working to provide a comprehensive resource to support Festival Churches. They are always keen to hear from churches and dioceses with ideas of what sorts of guidance, templates and training might be useful.