Members of the House of Lords, including a bishop, a Methodist minister and vice-president of the National Churches Trust, debated the importance of the English parish church on Thursday 12 June.
Members discussed the role parish churches play in communities, highlighting the ways they facilitate community life and provide a focus in cities and rural areas. As well as being a place of worship, members said they also provide a venue for social initiatives and vulnerable people.
Peers considered their historical and architectural importance, as well as the works of art they contain, saying that they attract many worshipping and non-worshipping visitors to them. Members said their age and heritage was also their vulnerability and it comes at a cost: the upkeep and maintenance of churches, many of which are listed buildings, is considerable. They argued that continued state funding was required alongside the money raised from congregations.
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon responded on behalf of the government and reiterated the importance of churches to English heritage. He acknowledged their role in social and cultural heritage and set out the various funding streams it provides to churches.