YOU may have seen alarming headlines decrying the ‘crumbling of our cathedrals’ and the ‘crisis’ of an ageing population putting Britain’s churches at risk of disrepair and closure.
It is a fact that the number of people attending Church of England Sunday services falls year on year, and this is the continuation of a trend seen over recent decades.
These statistics reflect changes in modern society. We are becoming more secular – fewer people identify themselves as religious and fewer people identify themselves as being Christian.
The good news is that many places of worship, especially those in Yorkshire, are taking on board the need to ensure their church buildings have overlapping religious and community uses to ensure their future sustainability.
They are opening up as spaces where playgroups meet, for food banks, hosting post offices, where concerts, talks and art exhibitions are put on and where drop-in sessions for the elderly and vulnerable are held.
This is where the organisation of which I am chairman, the Yorkshire Historic Churches Trust (YHCT), comes into play.
It is thanks to the generosity of our many friends and donors that we are able to help churches foot their repair and maintenance bills and be in a position to open up for wider uses.
Our supporters recognise that churches have an important role in our society. They are not just places of worship they are also a vital part of our heritage. They are the setting for some of the most important events in our lives, no matter whether you are a person of faith or not.
People we love are baptised in them, are married in them and have their funerals in them. We greet, celebrate with and bid farewell to people in our churches.
The YHCT runs an event in Yorkshire every year called Ride + Stride for Churches. It sees members of the public sponsored to walk, cycle or do pretty much anything that gets them from one place of worship to another.
The main fundraiser for the work of the YHCT takes place this year on Saturday, September 14, and you can find more details about the event at www.yhct.org.uk.
If you are looking for inspiration, why not follow the ‘Sculpt – Art in Churches trail’?
The Sculpt project involves international and innovative artists, who have each created individual and unique, site-specific sculptures for seven churches on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales.
Following the trail offers the opportunity to explore some of the most beautiful countryside in North Yorkshire, and by getting sponsored to do so, you would be helping preserve and protect these and many other churches for future generations to enjoy. You can find more details about the trail at www.yhct.org.uk/get-involved/ride-stride.
All of the money raised by a participant can be donated to the YHCT to distribute – or half of it can be donated to a church of the participant’s choice. The majority of the money raised goes to projects in Church of England churches but Ride + Stride raises money for places of worship of all denominations. You do not have to attend a church or place of worship to take part.
It is as much for small groups and individuals who want an excuse for riding miles on a Saturday or for families who want to do something fun and worthwhile as it is for people of faith. The day is designed to be fun, but behind it all is a serious message.
So, please consider doing your bit by signing up to Ride + Stride 2019, becoming a friend of the YHCT or leaving a valuable legacy.
If you would like further information about the work of the Yorkshire Historic Churches Trust, please visit our website on www.yhct.org.uk
The fate of these beautiful buildings is in our hands.
Churches are almost always the most beautiful buildings in our communities. They are a reassuring sign of continuity and place – they were there for our grandparents and their grandparents and they must be there for our children and grandchildren. You get the picture!
Tom Ramsden is chairman of Yorkshire Historic Churches Trust.