Association of Festival Churches
sponsored by ecclesiastical
Supporting over 16,000 cathedral and church buildings of The Church of England

Association of Festival Churches

What is a Festival church?

The concept of “Festival Churches” (or sometimes Celebration Churches) has been gaining currency and was recommended in the Church Buildings Review Paper endorsed by Synod, and projects along these lines
have been launched or are being considered in several dioceses.

A Festival Church is a church building which is not used for weekly worship, but is still a local icon and community asset. It is valued and required by the community for local events and for the Festivals of the Church (most obviously Christmas, Easter and Harvest Festival, but also local festivals, Mothers’ Day, Remembrance Sunday, Rogation Days, etc) and for Rites of Passage (Baptisms, Weddings, Funerals).

A Festival Church can also accommodate appropriate complementary uses (community, cultural and commercial), which gives opportunities to reconnect the church building and congregation with the community if this connection has been weakened or lost.

Legal changes and changes to Canon B14(a) mean that a Festival Church can remain legally “open” as a parish church, while embracing this flexibility. Previously a parish church had to have its legal status changed by a closure scheme to be able to do this, which was unnecessarily expensive and complicated, and could cause pastoral harm.

This is emphatically not about “mothballing” – it is about using these buildings in a way that is appropriate to its community, and makes the most of the opportunities the building has to offer.

Common features of a Festival Church include:

  • Flexible and specialised church services as needed in that community
  • Open during the day for visitors and worshippers
  • Increased use of church building for community needs
  • Insurance and maintenance responsibilities may be delegated / pooled / outsourced
  • A Trust (local, diocesan or national) manage these responsibilities on behalf of PCC
  • Release of energy for outreach activity


Association of Festival churches

An association of Festival churches has been set up by the Church Buildings Council to give support and advice to parishes looking at the “Festival Churches” model. It has a standing committee based at Church House, London with members who have expertise in liturgy, law, and community outreach.

Parishes can choose to affiliate themselves (no cost) to the Association, which means they will get regular updates and materials sent to them, and can benefit from the experience and mutual support of other members.

If you have questions about or for the Association, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. [telephone: 020 7898 1875; Twitter: @CofE_ChurchCare; Facebook]


Save the date

The next Association of Festival Churches conference will be held on the 25th March 2019 in Sheffield Cathedral, details tbc. We are very grateful to Dr Julie Banham who will be our host at Sheffield diocese.

By that time we expect that the amendments to Canons 11 and 14 will have had final approval at the February Synod. This amending canon makes it possible for a church to decide to officially become a Festival Church, vary its pattern of services and embrace flexible complementary uses and partnerships according to need.  Legal advice will be forthcoming to explain how to do this, which will be discussed at the conference. This conference therefore marks the real Launch of Festival Churches, and we hope a step change in strategic planning at deanery and diocesan level, both for rural and urban churches. We look forward to seeing many of you there.


AFC conference 2017

The Association of Festival Churches working with the Diocese of Oxford held its annual gathering in the newly refurbished and reordered church of St Mary Magdalene Woodstock on November 30th 2017. This was an opportunity to hear about the work of Festival churches nationally, and to think through some of the issues facing the rural church and the future of rural buildings

Presentations from the speakers can be accessed below. One of the main outcomes was an initiative to set up a Facebook page for the AFC, and this can be accessed here


AFC conference 2016

The Association held it's inaugural conference at ChristChurch, Spitafields, London on 24th November 2016, and was hosted by Sir Tony Baldry, Chair of the AFC.

The conference discussed the current projects in the dioceses of Exeter, Norwich and Truro, and there were useful discussion held in working groups concentrating on three main matters where it was felt progress still needs to be made; insurance, maintenance and legal flexibility.

The programme and conference handouts and presentations can be found here: