Many rural communities have in recent years lost a pub, a shop or even a school, but very nearly every parish in Oxfordshire still has its church.

Wherever you live, town or country, there is a good chance that there is a church near you.

Interestingly, unlike many other listed buildings such as castles and stately homes, churches are used today precisely for the purpose for which they were built.

This was for the local community to meet for worship and fellowship in a dry and relatively warm place.

While worship of God is still the main purpose, more churches are adapting to the modern needs of community life by installing kitchen and toilet facilities and comfortable meeting areas for all age groups.

Where the church is the only public building in which the community can meet, this is of considerable benefit.

A growing range of activities now take place within church buildings, such as village gatherings, concerts, school assemblies, post offices, polling stations, and Women’s Institute meetings or farmers’ markets.

In his recent Budget the Chancellor provided an additional £45m specifically to help to repair roofs and rainwater drainage on listed church buildings throughout England.

This supports a growing awareness that Church buildings need to be kept in good shape for future generations so that they continue to serve and be valued by their local communities.

All churches have a history – and sometimes a very long one – and this is another reason why they are increasingly valued today.

There is much to marvel at and learn from in the rich and precious heritage contained in our ancient churches. The beautiful architecture, sculptures, monuments and memorials are evidence of the inspiration, vision, skill and dedication of earlier generations.

It is we who benefit and it is we who should be good stewards for the sake of those who will follow in our footsteps.

At St Mary’s Church in Chalgrove, south-east of Oxford, there is a remarkable cycle of 44 wall paintings covering three sides of the chancel walls.

These were painted during the reign of Edward II in about 1320 and depict the life of Jesus Christ and the story of the Golden Legend.

It was reported that this church has just received confirmation of a grant of £544,900 from the Heritage Lottery Fund for their conservation and refurbishment project.

In addition to what has already been raised in the community, this will enable the project to clean and conserve the medieval wall paintings to go ahead.

It will also refurbish the interior of the church with improved heating, new lighting and sound systems and an enhanced gathering space.

The work will commence on June 1 and will be completed in time for Easter next year.

Integral to the project is the recognition of the importance of engaging visitors with the history and heritage of the church.

Volunteers have already come forward to be trained as guides.

Members of the local history group, children from the primary school and others in the community will help to provide information that can be accessed through electronic and audio systems as well as newly-designed printed material.

The Diocese of Oxford provides advice and guidance to churches of all denominations on conservation, refurbishment and development of facilities as well as information on prospective funders.

Further details are available at