Open churches: The Friends of City Churches
The Friends of City Churches (FCC) is an independent charity reborn in 1994 from a then-moribund organisation in response to the Templeman Report of that same year.
The report recommended mothballing 27 of the 39 Anglican churches in the City of London, something which would in all likelihood have led to closure and redundancy of some immensely significant buildings.
Having them open was seen was seen as an important way of sustaining the case for keeping them in use as functioning places of worship.
When they started investigating why City churches weren’t open to the public, explains Oliver Leigh-Woods, chairman of FCC, the paramount reason was concerns over security. If church watchers could be provided, he asked, would the churches then open?
Yes they would, it turned out, so FCC decided to organise teams of church-sitters. Initially they contacted NADFAS from where the first volunteers were found. Now there are about 100 regular watchers made up of a broad mix of people. Many are qualified guides, some used to work in the City. By no means all are churchgoers; what they do have in common is a genuine interest in the buildings and a desire to keep them open.
Fifteen churches make use of the sitters to open for at least one day a week from 11am to 3pm. During these hours, an A-board is put outside by the entrance to say the church is open and manned. Each church has a guide and FCC provide French, Italian and Spanish translations, as well as printed information and information on its website about where to find the churches and when they’re open. FCC also produces a newsletter for members and supporters.
This was written by Edmund Harris, formerly of the Parish Property Support Team.