Andrew Mottram, the diocesan Heritage Buildings & Community Development Officer will retire on 31 August after nine years in post. He has worked with churches across the diocese helping them to ensure their churches are fit for purpose and open for community use as much as possible. There are 279 open churches in the diocese – during his time in post, Andrew has visited 221 of them!

This work has been funded as part of English Heritage’s (now Historic England) Places of Worship Support Officers scheme with other contributions including those from local authorities and charitable trusts.

The priorities of the post were to 1) help individual congregations, and in particular those responsible for churches identified as priorities for support, to understand, maintain and make the best use of their buildings and land in and for their communities and 2) To help diocesan and local authority bodies take a strategic approach to the increased use and conservation of historic places of worship.

Andrew said: “I think one of my key achievements has been identifying those church buildings that are at risk or moving towards becoming at risk and helping PCCs to turn the situation around. 23 church buildings were originally put on the Historic England ‘Heritage at Risk’ register. Of the 23, 13 have been removed following repair projects and of the remaining 10, 4 have repair projects on site at the moment. 6 more buildings have been added to the HAR since 2016 of which 1 will be removed following the completion of repairs earlier this year. Additionally, a number of vulnerable buildings, with some timely preventative maintenance, have been made much drier and more pleasant to use.”

Andrew has worked hard at encouraging church communities to be proactive in the management of their buildings and focus on preventative maintenance. One of his favourite catch phrases is ‘regular checks prevent large cheques!”

He has been very successful in encouraging churches to be open and accessible during the day. He said: “When I first arrived back in 2011/12, only 40% of churches were open for the community to go into during the day. In some deaneries that figure is now over 75%. These churches are often unsupervised and the parishes rely on trust, goodwill and observant neighbours. In fact there have been very few problems.”

“Churches must become social hubs – in order to survive they need people! I’m a committed pew remover…but not if they’re replaced with lines of chairs which never get moved! Having buildings that are fit for purpose is a key part of being Kingdom People and it’s been great to help PCCs and congregations catch the vision – seeing their church buildings as a great resource rather than a burden or problem!”

Andrew has his own Mission Statement for church buildings: “If they are effectively to serve their communities as well as being places of worship, church buildings should be:

  • A place of meeting for the community
  • A place for listening, learning and telling stories
  • A place for creative and artistic endeavour
  • A threshold between heaven and earth”
  • On retirement, Andrew is planning to do very little for 12 months to give himself a bit of space to work out what might be next!