A while back the National Churches Trust ran a poll that said ‘bats in churches is an issue which divides opinion. What do you think?’
Bats are a protected species. But many churches are wonderful historic buildings. Now a vicar has said that bats ‘showering’ parishioners with faeces and urine at a Norfolk church appear to have ‘more rights that the worshipping community’.
A 300-strong colony of Natterer’s bats roost in the roof of St Andrew’s Church in Holme Hale but cannot be removed as they are a protected species. Rev Stephen Thorp said the bats are ‘off-putting’ and have made couples look elsewhere for their wedding.
But voters came down firmly in favour of the bats, as this graph shows:
The poll was based on this 2014 BBC report in which Conservative peer Lord Cormack agreed that bats were a “particular menace” to church-goers.
He described an instance – titter ye not! – in which:
The vicar had to shake the bat faeces out of her hair while celebrating holy communion at the altar.
The report also pointed out that as many as 6,400 churches and chapels in England have bat colonies, which means that they far outnumber parishioners.
I was prompted to visited the National Churches Trust website as a result of a lengthy press release sent to me on Friday by the trust’s Eddie Tulasiewicz, and I was hoping to find a link to it on the trust’s site. No joy; the only thing that caught my attention was the batshit poll.
So, what was the press release about? Well, here are some extracts:
The overwhelming majority of British adults (84%) think that the UK’s churches, chapels and meeting houses are an important part of the UK’s heritage and history, according to the findings of the ComRes poll, which interviewed 2,038 GB adults online between the 16th and 17th December 2015.
Claire Walker, Chief Executive of the National Churches Trust is cock-a-hoop, and quoted as saying:
This poll shows that there is overwhelming public support for church buildings, despite the decline in the numbers of people in Britain identifying themselves as Christian in recent years.The British public thinks that churches, chapels and meeting houses are an important part of the UK’s heritage and history and that they are also important for society as they provide a space in which community activities can take place, as well as worship.
Looking to the future, our poll shows how even more people could be encouraged to visit churches. That includes making sure that visitors receive a friendly welcome and providing better facilities such as toilets, a café or refreshment area. WiFi was seen as particularly important by young adults.
It’s a fact of life that keeping church buildings open costs money, in most cases way beyond the means of congregations themselves. That’s why it is good that the UK has a strong partnership of funders for church buildings, with money coming from Government and national organisations such as the Heritage Lottery Fund, charities including the National Churches Trust, and local people and congregations.
I hope that the public backing for financial support made available from Government for church buildings shown in this opinion poll, which over the past two years has totalled over £130 million, will help ensure that this funding continues to be provided.
There are around 42,000 churches, chapels and meeting houses in the UK. Faced with changing patterns of worship and demographic change, it is sometimes tempting to think that there are simply too many churches and that many should be closed.
However, the huge support for churches demonstrated by this poll will, I hope, encourage local communities and church authorities to keep their buildings open. In good repair and with the right facilities to allow greater community use, churches, chapels and meeting houses can continue to play a vital role in the life and well-being of the nation for many, many years to come.
Update: I hadn’t realised that the press release was embargoed until January 31, hence it non-appearance on the Trust’s site on Friday, the day I tried to find it. It’s up now.