The Church of England, in its role as the established church, is, in reality, an institution of the state. The Church officiates at most of the rituals of state occasions, and perhaps it would be beneficial to society for the Church to be a bit more involved in the day to day activities of society. A recent article on this website by Brian Otridge illustrated the plight of trying to maintain the fabric of our ancient Churches, which are part of our national heritage. A possible course of action came to mind.
Child care for low paid workers is a bit issue in these days of austerity, so perhaps a scheme can be concocted that will be beneficial to both heritage churches and low paid workers needing child care. At present, child care nurseries have to operate as commercial organisations, and face expenses for premises, insurance, and staff. This means that the fees they charge restrict their clientele to those who earn enough to be able to afford these charges. Something needs to be done for those who are on low incomes and cannot afford such charges, and maybe it is the Churches that can help.
The Church, where practicable on a case by case basis, might open nurseries in their premises, available only for those on low incomes (how low is a detail to be decided), and staff it with volunteers, as far as possible. This will not encroach into the market of the commercial nurseries, whose clientele will be on larger incomes. In return, the government would agree to maintain the Church premises and provide the necessary insurance cover, CRB checks, and other administrative requirements. The Church may make a small charge for providing child care, in case they cannot find enough volunteers and need to employ staff, but these charges must be low enough to be affordable by people on the lowest incomes.
The benefits of such a scheme will be mainly the provision of low cost child care for the low paid, making it easier for them to work. It will also increase the role of the Church in society, and keep their infrastructure in good repair, which may be a factor in keeping some Churches open. The Church of England is, in reality, a national institution, and their infrastructure is, more or less, public property, so spending taxpayers money on small Churches is merely an extension of the way the big cathedrals are maintained. Children from a single parent, low income, backgrounds are the most likely to lapse into delinquency, and perhaps exposure to Christian moral values from an early age may help to prevent this. It could also be a lead-in to mentoring and counselling services for older children who may need them in their formative years. The Church would then be getting back to its old function of providing a moral compass for society.
If such a scheme was adopted, it should be piloted with the Church of England only. If it is successful, it might be extended to other denominations on a case by case basis, but the scheme must not be allowed to become a cash cow for any obscure religious cult that wants to jump on the bandwagon. This scheme may not directly benefit small country Churches that serve only small, rural populations that are too small to need nurseries, but if the urban Churches are having their maintenance assisted, then that will release diocese funds which can be directed to the rural Churches that are not in the scheme.