Discussing the Future of the Historic Parish Church

On 5th May the TORCH Heritage Programme, Oxford University Heritage Network and the Churches Conservation Trust hosted an e-workshop with the aim of building a community of interest in Oxford for the work of the Churches Conservation Trust and to explore potential areas for collaboration around three main themes: histories, heritage science and business/management of the CCT’s heritage assets.


The CCT’s Chief Executive, Peter Aiers, provided an introduction to the organisation’s strategy and the ways in which he felt partnership work with Oxford could support their three core aims of promoting the value of our shared cultural heritage; supporting communities to use and love their historic places of worship; and sharing our skills to sustain churches. Peter noted that much of this approach was inspired by Philip Larkin’s poem Church Going.


Dr Karl Kinsella, Professor Heather Viles and Dr Pegram Harrison opened the discussion up further by reflecting on the ways in which researchers in Oxford could benefit in terms of research, knowledge exchange and public engagement with research through collaborations with the CCT. The discussion was lively and exciting, demonstrating the extent to which the historic parish church can act as a convening space for a wide variety of different disciplines, and provide superb opportunities for advancing new research in partnership with a range of communities across the CCT’s 356 church buildings. However, building resilient and sustainable partnerships takes time, so the next step for Oxford and the CCT is to embark on a small number of pilot projects, which we aim to develop and secure funding for during summer 2020.


This was the first time that we’ve used Microsoft Teams to bring together researchers from across the collegiate university with an external partner and the session was a real success – providing Oxford academics with insights into the CCT’s ambition to empower and support communities to care for historic places of worship. The Teams platform requires effective chairing, a judicious use of the chat function (“Q” for question and “C” for comment) and is best suited for shorter papers (between 10 and 15 minutes), ensuring that all participants remain engaged with the topic. Question and Answer sessions need to be actively managed too. Teams does not replicate the serendipitous connections that can form through in-person workshops and discussions but with active management can provide a very viable substitute.


For more medieval matters from Oxford, have a look at the website of the Oxford Medieval Studies TORCH Programme

TORCH Heritage Programme Homepage

Oxford University Heritage Network Homepage

Churches Conservation Trust Homepage

Poster of the e-workshop. Date: 05 May 2020. Time: 11.00-13.30. White letters against a grayscale picture of the church of St Andrew at Covehithe

Poster Image: The church of St Andrew at Covehithe. © CCT. You can find more about this church here: https://bit.ly/2YZJHJy