Churches and chapels

Explains why they are important, the current issues, what can be done to help retain them and the link between the church and farming community.

Why are churches and chapels important?

Churches and chapels are important to individuals and the community for a number of reasons:

  • Christianity still tends to be the principal faith in rural communities where churches and chapels provide opportunities for people to come together to celebrate their faith;

  • churches and chapels are a distinctive part of the physical landscape, a focal point in many villages and have key historical importance. Did you know that church spires along with the Humber have always been used as navigation points, that St James of Compostello, Lissett has the oldest inscribed bells in Europe or that two of the Guy Fawkes co-conspirators are buried at Welwick.

  • often located in the heart of communities churches and chapels provide the opportunity to engage directly with individual resident acting as a champion for their needs, a conduit for information and as the provider of key services to the most vulnerable.

  • In many small communities where public houses, shops and village halls have closed the church or chapel is the only remaining community meeting place. Many churches are adapting spaces to be more flexible and encourage a wider range of activities within the building.

What are the current issues for churches and chapels?

There are three key issues that churches and chapels in the East Riding currently face:

  • their regular congregations are in decline resulting in loss of income and people to care for them;

  • the number of trained clergy available to cover the rural community is in decline;

  • church buildings are old and expensive to maintain.

What can be done to help retain churches and chapels?

The council is working with the East Yorkshire Historic Churches Trust (EYHCT) Historic Churches and Rural Communities project through the LEADER Coast, Wolds, Wetlands and Waterways programme to make the most of church heritage including:

  • promoting church tourism by encouraging churches to be open and the publication of church trails, guides and gazetteers including the northern Wolds, Filey and Howdenshire, Stained Glass in the East Riding, Beverley Minster a cascade of churches, Holderness and the Yorkshire Wolds;

  • church maintenance by encouraging local people to get involved in helping to look after the fabric of their local churches through a series of church maintenance workshops. Through feedback from these workshops the interest in a church maintenance scheme will be assessed and, if the response is positive, the mechanism for establishing such a scheme will be set up;

  • audit by carrying out an audit of churches of all denominations, looking at their overall role in the local community, a ‘state of the nation’ report will be produced. This report will identify churches requiring assistance, particularly those at risk of redundancy.

For more information about the project or to download the church trails visit:

EY Churches (external website)

The council also works with communities through the Community Led Parish Planning process to identify how churches are chapels are valued as assets by their community and potential diversification projects to aid their sustainability.

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