A parish church (or parochial church) in Christianity is the church which acts as the religious centre of a parish. In many parts of the world, especially in rural areas, the parish church may play a significant role in community activities, often allowing its premises to be used for non-religious community events. The church building reflects this status, and there is considerable variety in the size and style of parish churches. Many villages in Europe have churches that date back to the Middle Ages, but all periods of architecture are represented.
In England and many British Overseas Territories and former British territories, the Church of England parish church is the basic administrative unit of episcopal churches. Nearly every part of England is designated as a parish (there being both ecclesiastic parishes and civil parishes, which overlie each other, but do not share names or boundaries, and hence an address may therefore fall into two parishes with different names), and most parishes have an Anglican parish church, which is consecrated. In the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda, the nine Church of England (since 1978, renamed the Anglican Church of Bermuda as an extra-provincial diocese of the Archbishop of Canterbury) parishes are identical with the civil parishes established following official settlement in 1612 (the archipelago having actually been settled since the 1607 wreck of the Sea Venture, with the first Church of England services in Bermuda performed by the Reverend Richard Buck, one of the survivors of the 1609 wreck). Whereas in England the ecclesiastic parishes generally bear the name of the Parish church, in Bermuda the parishes are named for shareholders of the London Company or its successor, the Company of the City of London for the Plantacion of The Somers Isles, with most of the Parish churches named for Saints, starting with St. Peter's Church, established in 1612 in St. George's Parish (the only parish named for a Saint) as the Protestant church in the New World. If there is no parish church, the bishop licenses another building for worship, and may designate it as a parish centre of worship. This building is not consecrated, but is
dedicated,[clarification needed] and for most legal purposes it is deemed to be a parish church. In areas of increasing secularisation or shifts in religious belief, centres of worship are becoming more common, and larger churches are sold due to their upkeep costs. Instead the church may use community centres or the facilities of a local church of another denomination.
While smaller villages may have a single parish church, larger towns may have a parish church and other smaller churches in various districts. These churches do not have the legal or religious status of 'parish church' and may be described by a variety of terms, such as chapel of ease or mission church. Often the parish church will be the only one to have a full-time minister, who will also serve any smaller churches within the parish. St. Peter's Church in St. George's Parish, Bermuda, is located on St. George's Island. A chapel-of-ease (named simply Chapel-of-Ease) was erected on neighbouring St. David's Island so that the island's residents need not cross St. George's Harbour.
In cities without an Anglican cathedral, the parish church may have administrative functions similar to that of a cathedral. However, the diocese will still have a cathedral. The Diocese of Newfoundland and Bermuda, before a separate Bishop of Bermuda was created in 1919, maintained both the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist at St. John's, Newfoundland, and a chapel-of-ease named Trinity Church in the City of Hamilton in Pembroke Parish, Bermuda (which was not to be confused with the much smaller St. John's Church, the Parish church for Pembroke Parish). Trinity Church was destroyed by arson and replaced with a similar structure by 1905, which became the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity when the Bishop of Bermuda was established as separate from the Bishop of Newfoundland in 1919.
In the Catholic Church, as the seat of worship for the parish, this church is the one where the members of the parish must go for baptisms and weddings, unless permission is given by the parish priest (US 'pastor') for celebrating these sacraments elsewhere. One sign of this is that the parish church is the only one to have a baptismal font.
Toward the end of the 20th century, a new resurgence in interest in "parish" churches emerged across the United States. This has given rise to efforts like the Slow Church Movement and The Parish Collective which focus heavily on localized involvement across work, home, and church life.