The church is becoming less and less important. In 2022 there were more church exits in Germany - Catholic and Protestant - than ever before. A similar trend can be observed in other countries. However, the people of England do not want to stand idly by and watch as their country's historic churches gradually wither away without being used. So they came up with a creative solution: Champing. To be more precise: camping in church buildings.
The British Churches Conservation Trust (CCT), which takes care of the protection of church buildings, launched a program in 2016 that makes exactly that possible. The creative way of spending the night is currently possible in a total of 18 churches across the country. For example, visitors can spend a night at St. Nicholas Church in Berden, experience the nocturnal atmosphere at St. Bartholomew's Church in Failand or set up camp at St. Leonards Church in Old Langho.
What sounds like a crazy idea at first glance is extremely well received by the British. According to a recent report by the British "Telegraph" the rush is so high that twelve more churches are to be included in the offer in the next few months. The paper quotes from the church organization's documents that there were 600 bookings last year that led to net income of around £86,000, the equivalent of just under EUR 97,000.
However, the church is not really about money. Rather, Champing should contribute to the fact that the church buildings have a utility value. "It's another way of allowing people to enjoy these historic buildings, explore them and have a little fun in the process," Canon Timothy Goode told The Telegraph. Many parishes have been offering yoga courses and other leisure activities in the religious spaces for years.
But the truth also includes: It is also about the tarnished image of the church in Great Britain. Christians now make up less than half of Britons, and the trend is falling. A reform of the classical church is therefore urgently needed. Father Goode knows that too. He therefore has great hopes in the Champing boom, as he explains to the "Telegraph": "It could be that the conversion of the churches will also create a new Christian community."
So, in the end, the trend is just clever church marketing? Not necessarily. The organization does not tie the booking to any prerequisites such as a certain religiosity or similar. So it is also a good opportunity for a special overnight experience.
Chana James, a spokeswoman for the CCT, is quoted by the Telegraph as saying: "Champing is a unique way to experience a historic building. Many of our sites are hundreds of years old and guests have this ancient site all to themselves for a night for himself." However, the guests are often not completely alone - depending on the location, up to ten beds are offered - but in such a church there is plenty of space.