From medieval cathedrals to hilltop chapels – Wales has some of the most beautiful and historical religious buildings in the world and now you have the chance to vote for your favourite.
To celebrate and raise awareness of Wales’ religious heritage, the National Churches Trust, the UK’s church building support charity, has launched ‘Sacred Wales’ – ‘Cymru Sanctaidd’ by giving people a chance to choose Wales’ favourite church or chapel.
You can pick from a list of 50 buildings nominated by religious and heritage organisations, including the Church in Wales.
They include St David’s Cathedral; Capel Als, the first Nonconformist place of worship in Llanelli; and St Winefried, Holywell, a shrine marking the spot where where Caradog cut off Winefride’s head in the 7th century and one the oldest continual pilgrimage sites in Britain.
You can vote online at www.sacredwales.org.uk until 31 August 2017.
The winning church or chapel will be announced on 28 September 2017 and will receive a ‘SacredWales’ – ‘Cymru Sanctaidd’ trophy, together with a cheque for £500.
Alex Glanville, head of property services at the Church in Wales, is encouraging people to vote. He says, “Wales has an amazing heritage of religious buildings. The Sacred Wales initiative by the National Churches Trust is a great opportunity to celebrate that heritage and to explore some of our very special places. It also reminds us that this is a precious heritage cared for by hard-working local volunteers in each congregation to whom we owe a particular debt as a nation.
“We have worked closely with the National Churches Trust and the Welsh Historic Places of Worship Forum to develop and promote the Supporting Places of Worship in Wales Survey 2017 which has identified the 50 favourite churches and chapels on the list. While there are no doubt many other favourites across Wales, the list is a fascinating cross-section of Wales’ places of worship.”
Meanwhile, the importance of preserving Wales’ religious heritage for future generations was emphasised by the broadcaster Huw Edwards at the launch of Sacred Wales – Cymru Sanctaidd. He said, “We should all care about the heritage of churches and chapels which help tell the story of Wales. So let’s work together to keep them alive.
“If you’re looking for a venue to hold an event of a concert or community activity, why not pick one of your local churches or chapels. If you’re any good at DIY, why not volunteer with some repair work. Or if you’re simply looking for a day out in another part of Wales, why not pop into a church or chapel and discover the fascinating history.”
“The religious heritage of Wales belongs to all of us. So let’s celebrate it.”
Claire Walker, CEO of the National Churches Trust, is calling for a national debate about the future of Wales’ churches and chapels. She said, “There are around 4,500 churches and chapels in Wales. Around 45% of these are listed due to their historical and architectural significance.
“However, with declining congregations, their future is not guaranteed. That’s why there needs to be a national debate about their future. Key questions that need answers include: how can they best be funded; how can they attract more visitors; and how can more of them be turned into community hubs, hosting post offices, farmers markets to help people in need?
“As the UK’s church support charity, in the last five years the National Churches Trust has made 37 awards worth more than £450,000 to churches and chapels in Wales to help pay for urgent repairs and the installation of community facilities.
“In the near future, we hope to extend our new ‘MaintenanceBooker’ (www.maintenancebooker.org.uk) service to Wales, which makes it easier for churches and chapels to carry out essential tasks such as drain and gutter clearances and lightning rod inspections.
“Churches and chapels are historic buildings. With the help of government, heritage bodies such as CADW and the Heritage Lottery Fund and local people, they can be part of our future, too.”
The future of Wales’ churches and chapels
‘Sacred Wales’ – ‘Cymru Sanctaidd’ celebrates Wales’ churches and chapels.
It is also designed to start a debate about their future.
Once the centre of Welsh society, many churches and chapels are still vital for community life. However, the job of looking after religious buildings is becoming harder as congregations decline.
The Supporting Places of Worship in Wales Survey 2017 a new report produced by the National Churches Trust, published in July 2017, highlights some of the problems being faced by many Welsh churches and chapels:
1. A severe shortage of volunteers to look after church and chapel buildings.
Keeping churches and chapels open and in good repair is often up to volunteers. However, half of churches and chapels say that they are not attracting new volunteers due to dwindling congregations and few young people.
2. A lack of skills needed to raise funds for repairs.
60% of churches and chapels need funding from external sources to pay for repair and maintenance projects to keep their building in good condition. But fundraising skills are in short supply. 28% of churches and chapels have no experience at all of making funding applications and 54% little experience.
3. Churches and chapels want funding to help carry our regular maintenance.
One of the best ways of preventing the need for expensive repairs is to carry our regular maintenance. But almost half of churches and chapels surveyed (44%) do not have a maintenance plan. And over three quarters of churches and chapels (78%) said they wanted help with funding to carry out maintenance.
The survey was organised by the National Churches Trust on behalf of the Welsh Places of Worship Forum. A total of 219 places of worship responded between May and July 2017.