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Making Good Use of Our Buildings

A Message from ourTeam Rector, Revd Canon Dr Jeremy Worthen.

One of the really positive things that came out of this year’s APCM is that we added three people to our membership of Deanery Synod. We had an excellent turnout from our lay representatives this week for a deanery meeting on ‘Opening up the Box – Using our Church Buildings Creatively.’

Discussion was led by Jonathan Arnold, who is part of the team at Diocesan House. His key message was that in order to use our buildings well, we’ve got to build relationships in our communities. Our buildings should help with that task, not become an end in themselves. He also challenged us, though: if our buildings are not helping us to grow relationships in the communities that we serve, might we need to let go of them and find a different base for church activities?

As you might imagine, that sparked some lively exchanges! It was pointed out that PCCs hold a responsibility for maintaining our church buildings and have to find the resources to do that. Passing them on to anyone else is not at all easy, especially when they are Grade-1 Listed Buildings, as most of ours are.

We have to balance that responsibility for our church buildings, though, with our responsibility to help make the treasures of the gospel accessible to everyone living in our parish. Sometimes, we might feel a real tension between those two. We have a lot of church buildings, and a vibrant church community that doesn’t use one at all, but it’s not clear that what we have is always best placed to serve the people of our parish, in terms of location or facilities. But we can’t resolve that tension by just walking away from one of those two responsibilities and saying we’ll only focus on the other.

Reflecting on our evening together, I’m left with three question that I’d like to share with you.

  • Our buildings (halls as well as churches) are a great gift, but keeping them safe, accessible and hospitable for all requires a good deal of time and money. How can we extend the range of people contributing to that, so it doesn’t just fall on the (sagging) shoulders of a few?

  • Our buildings are a valuable space for engaging with our local communities. How could we develop the range of activities we currently host in our buildings, in order to grow relations with groups who are most obviously missing from our Sunday congregation?

  • Ashford is a varied patchwork of local communities. Some have a church building that can be seen as ‘theirs’, but not all, most obviously some of the larger new housing areas. Can we imagine establishing a new church presence in and for such a community?

Feel free to send me your answers!

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