REACH Ely – Reimagining Churches as Community Assets for the Common Good – is a three-year project that investigates the community value of church buildings and how this relates to success in the missional life of the church. The resulting data will be used to provide tools for churches to use to identify the opportunities existing in their local communities. The project has the generous support of Allchurches Trust and Historic England.
The Church of England nationally proposes that dioceses undertake strategic reviews of church buildings. This project is firmly rooted in that context, as a product of the Diocese of Ely’s own strategy for growth; but seeks to take a very outward-looking approach, both in terms of the methodologies employed to achieve the aims of the project, and its primary focus on the communities surrounding churches.
A review of current research suggests there is much more work to be done to understand how community use of church buildings, and also community values and perceptions of church buildings, might make them not only sites for worship, but truly tools for mission. There is currently little information available about the determinants of success and failure in this context. New research will also identify new ways of measuring the success of a church’ work in its local community which go beyond financial bottom lines and weekly attendance figures.