Half of Cumbria's 650 churches are 'struggling financially and urgently need help', a new survey has found.
The survey, conducted by Churches Trust for Cumbria (CTfC), is the most comprehensive study of church buildings in the county ever undertaken. It threw up some stark findings including:
- Only one in five churches are used more than once a week and half of all churches have financial concerns.
- Congregations are ageing (less than 7 per cent of people attending church are younger than 18 years old) and getting smaller (the average congregation is 20 people or less).
- In rural communities a faithful few are determinedly maintaining their church, but buildings need people. The survey shows the strongest guarantee of health is the commitment of a group of people.
In response to the report, church leaders are calling for communities, local government, businesses and others to work to support their local church.
Bryan Gray, chairman of the Churches Trust for Cumbria, says church buildings are just as important in community life as the local shop or pub and need protecting.
The report sets out a variety of ideas for action including making churches more attractive for use by better equipping them as meeting places, home delivery drop-off points, libraries, cafes and social meeting places.