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REACH Ely project is collecting audit data on the wider community use of church buildings

The REACH Ely project is collecting audit data about church buildings from the church communities in the Diocese of Ely.

Computer screen displaying audit website against a church backdrop.

The aim of the audit is to gather evidence of the wider community use of church buildings and the contribution that churches make to the common good. The REACH Ely project began with 41 case studies of a wide range of different churches across the diocese. From those case studies, the project team has designed a buildings audit to collect local information that will matter to the future of all our churches.

Looking to the future following the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important that churches and deaneries gain a true and fair picture of the challenges and opportunities they now face. In addition to important data collated by Church House in London, churches’ annual returns and census data, the most important evidence to support churches in planning for the future is the local knowledge that only parochial church councils themselves have, about their church buildings, how they are used, and how they are valued locally.

The survey responses will contribute directly to assessing the economic, spiritual, social, cultural and environmental value to communities of churches and church buildings. The churches in the diocese are asked to provide a collective response to this survey and an opportunity for individual voices to be heard will be provided later in the project.

The audit comprises questions arranged in the following sections:

  • Church and neighbourhood profile.
  • Church building.
  • Environmental sustainability.
  • Church finances.
  • Public worship and other services.
  • Community use of church building and activities.
  • Church hall use and activities.

It is estimated that the survey will take about an hour to complete and the churches are advised to use 2019 church accounts, church services register and most recent quinquennial report. Given that the COVID-19 lockdown has led to the closure or only partial use of all churches and associated buildings, the survey asks about the typical usage of churches prior to March 2020. The questions are also tailored to the re-opening of churches and their post-COVID-19 usage. 

The survey is accompanied with the introductory letter from the Bishop Stephen, who has called the survey “an aid to reflection and a diocesan-wide stocktake”, and audit letters from Archdeacon Hugh McCurdy, Archdeacon Dr Alex Hughes and Geoffrey Hunter, head of church buildings of the diocese.

It is planned that the analysis of collected data will begin in early spring 2021.