Churches can now apply for practical help in promoting their heritages and boosting congregations with the announcement last week that English Heritage (EH) is giving £1.5 million to part-fund the employment of 30 support officers at dioceses around the country, a project that has already been piloted in four areas.

Trial support officer Louise Skinner, church buildings advisor to the Diocese of Exeter, explains her role: ‘Parishes have approached me for advice on issues from repairs to new facilities, and how to apply for funding. I can guide them through all the paperwork as a friendly face in what could otherwise be a daunting process.’ Scott Ralph, project officer for Brighton and Hove, has helped safeguard the assets of churches that have closed and to find new uses for them.

Janet Sewell and Helen McGowan, Divine Inspiration support officers in Coventry, have been helping volunteers to understand and communicate their church’s heritage, such as through publishing a guidebook. And in Manchester, the Bishop, the Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch, says: ‘Tim Hatton, our historic church buildings officer, has been invaluable in helping parishes to grasp new possibilities.’ Culture Secretary Andy Burnham comments: ‘Our places of worship continue to pull communities together.

This excellent scheme is about helping those landmarks to survive.’ To apply for a support-officer post, which EH will part-fund for three years, contact Nick Chapple (020–7973 3267; nick.chapple@english-heritage.org.uk).