Places of Worship: Inspiring Ideas opens today.

A new strategic funding initiative, it welcomes applications from projects looking to explore innovative ideas and test new approaches to managing, caring for and funding historic places of worship, of all faiths and denominations, so they are financially resilient.

The project is a partnership between the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Pilgrim Trust, the Plunkett Foundation and the National Churches Trust. Total funding available will be at least £1million. Grants will be delivered through HLF’s existing Resilient Heritage programme and applicants can apply for a grant of between £10,000 and £250,000 and all projects must be delivered in a single stage.

Successful projects could focus on single places of worship or partnerships working together to explore and trial innovative ideas aimed at securing a sustainable future for these fantastic buildings. Projects could be linked geographically, thematically or by the challenges faced.

Example activities that could be supported include:

  • investigating and trialling new approaches to fundraising, trading or other income generating activities;
  • activities that explore new models of managing the building and engaging with the wider community;
  • building capacity across a group of congregations by identifying and delivering training for staff, volunteers and trustees; or
  • investigating new ways of sharing learning and resources across a number of faith sites or brokering new partnerships

Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund, trailed Places of Worship: Inspiring Ideas at the National Churches Trust Conference Building Resilience, in June. It joins a number of targeted initiatives from HLF designed to help heritage organisations and those responsible for heritage to build financial resilience and future sustainability including Rethinking Parks and Resilient Heritage.

Commenting on the ambitions for the initiative, she said: “Building financial resilience is vital to the future of all heritage organisations. Places of Worship: Inspiring Ideas is the latest in a series of strategic HLF initiatives designed to empower local people to work together to explore new ways of securing the heritage that matters to them. Places of worship have a particular set of challenges but sharing ideas and inspiring others, will give congregations the tools needed to build a sustainable future.”

Example projects

 Inspired North East

A £220,000 National Lottery grant is enabling Inspired North East to work with local church congregations to help achieve a sustainable future for church buildings in the North East. It is helping secure living places of worship as buildings used and enjoyed by local communities, visitors and tourists. This is being achieved through developing opportunities for heritage conservation, improvements to facilities and access, and open up potential for wider community use.

Interested groups should complete and submit an expression of interest form by 14th October. A limited number of projects will then be invited to complete a full application.

Inspiring Ideas is complementing pilot projects now being rolled out with financial support from Department of Digital, Media and Culture and Sport (DCMS) as a result of the Taylor Review on the Sustainability of English Churches and Cathedrals.  HLF and DCMS will work together to make sure that the lessons from both initiatives are used to support places of worship work towards a more sustainable future.