The Friends of Friendless Churches, a registered charity, was established in 1957 to save redundant but beautiful places of worship across England and Wales from demolition, decay and unsympathetic conversion. We rescue and repair these buildings, and re-open them for the public to use.
To date, we have over 60 historic buildings in our care, and have helped countless more over the years. You can read more about us here.
We are a very small but hardworking team of just one full-time and one part-time member of staff.
As we can adopt places of worship from any denomination, this answer can vary. However, most of our churches come to us via the Church of England or the Church in Wales. There is legislation in place to handle the closure and transfer of Anglican churches to our care in England.
In England, a Parochial Church Council (PCC) must pass a resolution to close a church. This decision goes to the Diocesan Bishop, who can publish a scheme to declare the church redundant. This is displayed online and on a public notice at the church. Members of the public have 28 days to make a representation supporting or objecting to the scheme. If there are no objections, the scheme is made and the church is declared redundant. It then enters the “use-seeking phase”. Whilst the options for its future are being explored, the church is owned by the Diocesan Board of Finance. The Diocesan Mission and Pastoral Committee (DMPC) explore future use options and report their recommendations to the Church Commissioners.
The Church Commissioners decide on the future use, and publish a draft pastoral church buildings (disposal) scheme. Again, there are 28 days for the public to comment. If there are no objections, the scheme is made, and the new use can be implemented. Full information can be found on the Church Commissioners’ website.
Often, we are approached by the DMPC during the use-seeking period. Sometimes we are alerted to a closure notice, and if we think we can help the church, we will contact the DMPC directly to state our interest.
In Wales, the law and processes are similar, however, it is possible for a Bishop to close a church without a PCC resolution. Whilst a future use is being sought, the church remains vested in the care of the Representative Body of the Church in Wales. We discuss with the Representative Body and Cadw, which churches we can take into our care.
We cannot agree to take a church into our care prior to closure. The formal legal process as outlined above must be followed.
A redundant church is one which has been formally closed as it is no longer needed for regular worship. There are several reasons why a church might close, these include:
Architectural and historic interest are two of the most important factors, but we also need carefully to consider the condition of the church, the scale, scope, and cost of works in the immediate and longer term. For our small charity, the cost and urgency of repairs will always be a deciding factor.
We find the reason for taking a church into our perpetual care is nuanced, and more a process of research, meetings, and discussions, than a tick-box exercise. Through the Board of Trustees and our expert members, we are able to develop a far greater depth of meaning and understanding.
Unfortunately, given our small number of staff, our view is that we are unable to take urban churches into our care.
Yes. All of the churches in our care remain consecrated for worship.
It is possible to be married in one of our churches provided certain conditions are met. In terms of legalities, our churches are redundant, which means that they are no longer parish churches and thus are no longer licensed for weddings; however, they all remain consecrated for worship.
The couple needs to prove a connection to the church/area, and get permission from the local vicar and Diocesan Bishop, before applying to the Archbishop of Canterbury (for Wales too) for a wedding by special licence.
Wedding blessings are more straightforward. Here, we just need the permission of the local vicar who can officiate.
We do charge a fee for hiring our churches for weddings and blessings. This is in addition to any fees the Church may charge.
Weddings in any of our Anglican churches can only take place according to the Rites and Ceremonies of the Church of England or Church in Wales respectively. A consecrated building (as all of our churches are) cannot in law be licensed for a civil wedding.
If you’re interested in hiring one of our churches, please contact us.
Initially, a Parochial Church Council (PCC) should discuss their concerns with the vicar or, if the church is in interregnum, the Archdeacon. If you are not a member of the PCC, contact information for the church’s PCC is usually posted in the church porch, or may be available for English churches via A Church Near You.
Working with the Diocesan Church Buildings Strategy Committee (or equivalent) the PCC can discuss if closure is necessary, explore possible wider and alternative uses, and consider informally, what the future for the building might be if it closes. The Church Buildings Council may be commissioned to prepare a report, which can help to focus efforts on keeping the church open and in use.
When a place of worship is vested in our care, all the records are deposited in the relevant County or diocesan record office. To locate and access these, contact the relevant diocese. Contact details for individual diocesan offices are available online.
We are responsible for the maintenance of some churchyards which are closed for burials. However, most of the churchyards surrounding our churchyards are owned and the responsibility of the Parochial Church Council (PCC) or in Wales the Community Council. If you have a query about a specific churchyard, please contact us.
In Wales, we are grateful to Cadw and the Representative Body of the Church in Wales for their annual grant of £90,000 and £60,000 respectively. This grant goes towards the insurance and maintenance of the churches in Wales which we own, and towards our efforts to take on additional important churches when they close.
We do not receive any regular funding in England.
Our work is sustained by membership subscriptions, donations, and legacies. We are indebted to our supporters. If you would like to learn more about Becoming a Friend or donating towards our work, please have a look at ways to support us.
We do not offer grants for repair of churches. We do administer the Cottam Will Trust, which offers grants “for the purchase of objects of beauty to be placed in ancient Gothic churches for the furtherance of religion”. Learn more about the Cottam Will Trust.
You can support the FoFC by becoming a Friend, making a donation, volunteering at one of our churches, organising a fundraising event, giving as you earn or shop, or leaving a legacy.
Learn more about how you can support our work.
Our churches can be hired for a wide range of events — from family celebrations, to craft markets and community suppers, to concerts and flower festivals. Our churches are also available for use as filming and recording locations. To enquire about venue hire please contact us.
As a small, almost wholly voluntary organization, we rely extensively on kind local people to act as our eyes and ears.
Some of our churches are fortunate to have volunteer groups of local friends who organise events in and around the church — from bake sales and harvest suppers, to talks, hands-on maintenance and educational trips and visits. In other places, we are in need of one or more keyholders to help us keep our churches safe, while providing access to local people and visitors.
Learn more about volunteering.
For our major projects, we compile a list of suitably experienced local contractors and, before inviting them to tender, we contact them to gauge their interest and availability. All our major projects are competitively tendered to ensure value for money.
We have a maintenance contractor at each of our churches, and they undertake smaller items of repair and routine maintenance as needed throughout the year.
We are a buildings trust that rescues redundant places of worship, and not a grant giving body. There are organisations like National Churches Trust that offer grants and training, and places like the Heritage Trust Network that offer support and advice. Individual Dioceses will also have support teams, so it is worth contacting them. We wish you the very best in securing the resources you need.