Outsiders often love Church buildings, where insiders often feel more of a love/hate thing about them. Insiders know all the pitfalls and challenges, as well as appreciating their place in the local skyline. It's been fascinating to spend two days with the Ecclesiastical Law Society, contemplating buildings as mission opportunities.
Sir Roy Strong sees no future for parish churches as mere museums or clubhouses, bottled up in formaldehyde. They have to engage everyone who relates to them to have a future; and if this means toilets, then so be it. He is interested in the long-term history of Churches before our eighteenth and nineteenth century forbears turned them into one day a week places. We need to recover a longer perspective; and be slightly careful about amenity societies and others, if they ever exercise power to comment without responsibility.
Charles Mynors and Richard Giles led us through legal and structural possibilities for buildings. I came away from Richard’s talk in particular feeling that where things sometimes go wrong is when congregations themselves lose the script about their worship. It’s a trap to engage architects before you know what you’re trying to achieve and why — results can be disappointingly muddled and incoherent.
Andrew Mottram and Paul Bayes then led us through the concept of buildings for mission. It’s mad to start with design, before you know what you’re trying to design. This comes back to the need for clear thinking from the outset. All sorts of people way beyond our conventional constituency are seeking out special, holy places in their lives. Look at those shrines you increasingly see lovingly kept see by the roadside, where people have died. When people oppose change, it’s easy to grumble about them — but what is God saying to us through them about where we need to be? People can be very positive about their parish churches, but not if they are only fitted for gathered communities with high exclusion thresholds various. he gave various examples of different groups relating to buildings in surprising ways, sometimes very positively and creatively.
Tonight? John Mummery, Justice of Appeal and Chairman of Tribunals under the Clergy Discipline Measure. Stern and thrilling stuff awaits, perhaps...