Leder av en allianse av bygdekirker i Storbritannia vil bøte på forfall og lavt oppmøte ved å åpne kirkene for ulike trossamfunn og på lenger sikt andre trossamfunn.
Sir Barney White-Spunner er noe oppsiktsvekkende katolikk. De pleier vanligvis å være noe mer konservative i slike spørsmål. Men White-Spunner ser for seg at kirkene kan bli «kommunitetssentra», og det er ikke grenser for hva kirkene kan fungere som, enda politi-kontaktpunkt.
For mange vil disse ideene høres ganske søkt og høytflyvende ut. De er snarerre uttrykk for en tendens og et ønske.
Sir Barney White-Spunner said he was concerned that churches in villages and towns were falling into disrepair and not being used enough.
He said he was “hugely excited” about opening up churches to other Christian denominations and, in the longer term, other faiths.
He also proposes making churches into community centres which host local markets, nurseries and even police contact points.
Sir Barney, a Roman Catholic, said: “Personally I think it would be hugely exciting, it would restore life and vigour to these incredibly important buildings.
He added that in his personal view, other faiths could also use churches. He said: “I personally think that in the long run you can extend it further to other faiths. Britain is changing, as the census has shown.”
According to the most recent census, the number of Christians in England and Wales has fallen by more than 4million since 2001, while the number of non-believers more than doubled to one in four of the population.
While the number of Christians has fallen from 37m to 33m, almost all other major faiths in Britain have seen a rise in their following. The number of Muslims has risen almost doubled to 2.7m, while the number of Hindus has risen from 144,000 to 148,000.
The Church of England said that while it would allow its buildings to be used by worshippers from other Christian denominations, it could not allow them to be used for worshipping other faiths.
He added that despite the decline in Christianity detailed in the census, more than 1.7million people worship in Church of England buildings every month.
The Church of England spends more than £100million every year on the upkeep of its buildings. “The Church of England’s churches are in better condition than they have been for hundreds of years,” he said.