More than half of Brits say church is 'vital' to local community

St John's, Shildon, Durham: St John's supports its community in a variety of ways. The churches allotment project teaches children about healthy food and provides fresh fruit and vegetables to the churches food bank feeding the most vulnerable in the community.Ecclesiastical

Churches are a 'significant' part of local communities and their loss would be devastating to entire communities, a new survey finds.

Half of UK adults back the continuing role of churches in society, according to specialist insurers Ecclesiastical.

In one of the largest ever surveys of peoples' attitudes towards the role and influence of churches in local communities, more than a third of UK adults surveyed said that they would campaign to keep their nearest church from closing.

Meanwhile, one in three respondents said they would provide financial support if their local church was in financial difficulty.

The company commissioned the research to highlight the important role churches play in local communities outside of religious services and festivals.

Michael Angell, church operations director at Ecclesiastical, said:  'There have been many surveys conducted in the past founded on questions of church attendance and shifting attitudes to faith and religion. However, what we wanted to focus on was what people today actually think and feel about their local church and its place within their community.'

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is currently considering the findings of its own survey into the sustainability of English churches and cathedrals. The Church of England has also set up a working group to try and examine the issues around a financial crisis facing some cathedrals.

According to the Ecclesiastical survey, more than five in 10 of the British public think their local church is part of the history of their community, while more than a third of people said their church part of the fabric of their community. The same number also feel their local church provides vital services to their community.

Angell said: 'We know from our own engagement with the church community up and down the country that the value and reach of churches' work is on a scale that would be almost impossible to replace. Churches provide a wide range of community services from holiday clubs and parish nursing to foodbanks and mother and toddler groups, provisions many people rely on day-to-day. This work often goes unnoticed but to the people that use these services it is invaluable.'

Ecclesiastical, the UK's leading insurer of Grade I listed buildings, covers more than 15,000 Anglican churches.