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A Netflix for people who love churches

The Churches Conservation Trust (CCT) is launching a new online streaming platform next month. CCTdigital.com will feature films about church heritage and the history of churches, including much from the medieval past. 

By becoming a member of the Churches Conservation Trust, viewers will gain access to exclusive series and episodes filmed in 4K resolution. To launch the platform, the CCT partnered with Oxford University professor, and world-leading expert on the History of Christianity, Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch, to create ‘Churchcrawls in Solitude’.

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In September 2020 Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch sought sanctuary in his lifelong hobby of ‘churchcrawling’, which he describes as being “like a pubcrawl only with churches, though pubs may feature if needed”. Over the course of this five-part series, viewers will be exploring the architecture, history, and beauty of these places as well as watching Diarmaid reflect on “a historian’s life, measured out in churches.”

One of the churches that viewers will be exploring is St John the Baptist at Inglesham in Wiltshire. This 13th century time capsule is an ancient wonder full of medieval wall paintings and was saved by the pioneering Victorian designer, William Morris. Today it is cherished and cared for by CCT.

Responding to the partnership and working with CCT, Professor MacCulloch said: “Churches are places that I love and have played an important role in my seven decades of life. Indeed, they’ve played important parts in the lives of countless generations and so it’s sad to see many in this country facing an uncertain future. It’s why partnering with CCT to make this series has been great, and hugely encouraging. The Trust has saved some of England’s most important historic churches for the last 50 years and they do a fantastic job, and they have a vital role to play in helping our nation to care for church buildings going forward. My hope is that people will love the series we’ve produced together, so much so in fact, that they’ll want to join CCT and help them protect more churches and watch great films in the process.”

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CCTdigital.com is an initiative in response to the growing efforts and work of CCT in regard to going Digital. In May 2020, in response to the Government instructions to close churches, CCT began broadcasting through Facebook free weekly lunchtime lectures. The topics cover everything from art, architecture and history through to folklore and naughty things in churches and have attracted a global audience reaching 2.7 million people. The lectures have led to CCT seeing a 50% rise in Members joining the Trust from just £3.50 per month, to help the Trust to care for its historic churches.

CCTdigital.com is part of a wider strategy at the Trust, which seeks to empower people and communities across the country and beyond to use and love their historic places of worship. Faced with increasing church closures over the coming years, the work and skills of the Trust are vital to safeguarding our national heritage and CCTdigital.com will play a role in educating people in engaging and innovative ways about the enormous value of churches and why they need conserving.

“Church buildings in England face an uncertain future, and the various challenges they face have only been exacerbated and accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Peter Aiers, Chief Executive of CCT. “Put simply, more churches are likely to close for regular worship. As a nation we have one of the world’s finest collections of historic church buildings that tell the story of a community and place like no other building can – parish churches belong to all of us, regardless of faith. As the leading national charity responsible for caring for and conserving our nation’s historic churches, we have never been needed more. Our ambition is that CCTdigital.com becomes a place of learning and discovery, where people can engage with fantastic digital content and be a part of saving church buildings in the process”.

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CCTdigital.com, which is similar to streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+ , will be launching on Monday 6 December and is a response to the huge growth in subscriptions to online streaming platforms. The Trust envisages that people will want to become Members of the Trust to support it in its work of conserving churches in addition to gaining access to quality-produced digital content.

“We are delighted to be launching CCTdigital.com with Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch and ‘Churchcrawls in Solitude’ and we have got exciting plans for future series and productions,” adds George Reynolds, Digital Media Officer for the Trust. “In the new year we will be training volunteers, communities and the public to create their own church tours, lectures and documentaries to upload onto our platform.

“CCTdigital.com gives us the ability to reach and engage a wider audience in new ways. We know that churches in the past have faced challenges engaging younger audiences, but over the past year we’ve seen a much younger demographic wanting to learn about churches and the variety of fascinating topics associated with them, as well as wanting to get involved with our work in conserving and protecting historic churches at risk.”

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Click here to visit CCTdigital.com

Top Image: Interior of St John the Baptist at Inglesham in Wiltshire – photo by Rob Noble / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

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