UK's Church of the Year 2022 unveiled

The top prize of Church of the Year 2022 was won by St Macartan's, The Forth in Augher, County Tyrone in Northern Ireland.(Photo: National Churches Trust)

Winners of the first ever National Church Awards have been announced by comedian and actor Hugh Dennis.

The awards are run by the National Churches Trust and celebrate churches and the people who use and look after them.

The top prize of Church of the Year 2022 went to St Macartan's, The Forth church in Augher, County Tyrone in Northern Ireland.

The Church of the Year award recognises "a shining example of a church, chapel or meeting house which is open, available to all and supported by the local community".

The winning church should also "meet the needs of this community and be welcoming to those visiting from near and far".

St Macartan's dates back to 1838 and is the former cathedral of the Roman Catholic diocese of Clogher.

Its beautiful 1922 Clarke Studio stained glass window was recently restored as part of a major heritage project led by Martin McKenna.

The church impressed judges not only with the standard of care of the building, but how it is promoted as part of the heritage of County Tyrone and involves local people as volunteers. 

Judges also praised the recent restoration as a "catalyst" for greater local involvement with the church.

"There's a sense of bringing everyone together to share in the activity. It's wonderful to see an ecumenical project which demonstrates that leadership is a real linchpin to success. So often clergy think that the gutters have nothing to do with their vocation but it's great to see their involvement here," the judges said. 

St Macartan's was also the Country Winner for Northern Ireland.

There were separate awards for the best churches in the other three nations which went to: St George's church, Kidderminster in Worcestershire, England; St Deniol & St Macella, Marchiel in Wrexham, Wales; and Bishopton Parish Church, in Renfrewshire, Scotland.

Presenting the awards, Dennis said: "Packed with history and heritage, centres for vital community support and places for worship and reflection, churches are a beating heart of the nation.

"A huge congratulation to all of the winners of this year's awards, all of whom love and care for their churches.

"The National Church Awards will inspire others with new ideas to make their churches welcoming, long lasting and thriving, at the service of all." 

Claire Walker, Chief Executive, of the National Churches Trust said: "Our new National Church Awards bring together all that is brilliant about the work happening in and around church buildings.

"Architecture, maintenance, supporting volunteers and providing a great welcome are all hugely important to the future of churches."