Letter: Adapting churches to community needs

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The Independent Online
Sir: There is a remedy for our old, cold, non user-friendly churches (report, 15 February). Dr Robin Gill suggests money be spent on 'mission, not maintenance', and indeed we are living in the Decade of Evangelisation. But evangelisation can be defined as the interface of Church and community. Our many church buildings are the visual symbol of that interface, and often the only outward sign of God's presence in a world deemed increasingly Godless.

If our Church 'plant', as we must call it these days, is thus a sacrament or sign of God's love in the community, then we must stop seeing it as a millstone and consider it rather as a valuable resource in our mission, to be put at the service of the communities in which it is situated.

There are few churches which, with insight and inspiration, cannot adapt their underused volume. I have visited Urban Priority Area churches which are open seven days a week, busy with doctors' surgeries, clinics, out-of- school clubs for 'latchkey' children, old people's day centres, etc. It requires imagination, flexibility and co-operation, but it can be done. And maybe then, when the unchurched see that the Church is really the servant of the world, we may witness a gradual halt to the decline in faith.

The conservationists squawk at the prospect of fine and significant buildings adapted, with kitchens, WCs, nurseries, facilities for the elderly and disabled. But if there is vision, it is possible to maintain a place set apart for God at the heart of all this activity; and if there is skill, it is possible to keep the architectural and aesthetic integrity of the building.

Yours faithfully,

MARY KIRK

Director

Church and Community Trust

Fressingfield, Suffolk

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