Evensong service held at St Paul’s Cathedral to celebrate anniversary

A special service of Evensong was held in St Paul’s Cathedral to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Incorporated Church Building Society (ICBS) on Tuesday, June 26.

Founded in 1818 to address the shortage of churches across the country, the organisation has led the charge in building and expanding Anglican churches and chapels across the country, until it was absorbed by The National Churches Trust in 2013.

The service was attended by religious leaders of various denominations and notable guests including The Duke of Gloucester, with the St Paul’s Cathedral Consort performing the awe-inspiring music.

In the Blessing, Most Reverend and Right Honourable Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York and joint president of the National Churches Trust said: “We are blessed to have some of the most historic and beautiful religious buildings to be found anywhere in the world.

“At the centre of local communities, churches, chapels and meeting houses provide a home for countless activities such as playgroups, drop-in-centres and musical events, as well as serving their core purpose as places of worship.”

Since its inception, the ICBS has granted over 14,000 grants to churches of various denominations.

The National Churches Trust currently distributes of £1.4 million a year in grants for the upkeep and repair of church buildings.

It has also been at the forefront for the campaign for ‘free’ pews, giving a preference to churches who had a larger number of pews available to the public to encourage more people to attend church.

After the decision of the Heritage Lottery Fund not to fund churches as a specific category, there is now no public money specifically for churches.

Despite the falling popularity of organised religion, a survey by the National Churches Trust found that 60% of the population has been inside a church in the past year.

In a sermon delivered with passion and occasional humour, the The Right Reverend Nicholas Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury, argued that churches were a necessary part of the social fabric that went beyond believers attending.

The Right Reverend Holtham said: “In many communities the church is the building around which the “community has been formed. In Salisbury, in the wake of the poisoning of the Skripals and the violation of the “city, the cathedral and the churches have been the places of gathering and have given stability.”

The Right Reverend Holtham said that while churches and organised religion were not without controversy, churches were an important part of the country’s social capital and cultural heritage.

“In an age of prolonged austerity, in which there is deep anxiety about our global politics, fake news, alternative facts and the disturbance of democracy, nothing is more important than a place and people committed to being about our Father’s business,” he added.


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