Sir: James Fenton is right to castigate the Church of England for its flawed attitude to our national heritage. Part of the problem is in clergy training.
Although almost all clergy will, at some point in their ministry, have historic buildings and works of art in their care, they receive no guidance on this aspect of their work at theological colleges. Indeed, the colleges have resolutely resisted any suggestion that this should be part of their job.
One would think that, at the very least, some awareness of the support available to parishes through government and other grants and expert advice would be helpful. However, all too often, hard-pressed clergy have to research this aspect of their job from scratch. Not surprisingly, this can induce a resentful attitude that sees heritage and conservation as problems rather than embodying the rich continuity of faith.
Until the Church of England takes its responsibilities seriously as a custodian of our most beautiful old buildings and their contents, its exemption from national planning controls will increasingly be seen as an unjustifiable and archaic privilege.
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