‘Regenerating Places of Faith, beginning the conversation’ brought together a cross section of representatives from different churches and religions to hear how others are dealing with the challenge of declining numbers in the pews.
The conference explored how congregations can be strengthened through developing partnerships with other community groups and local businesses, and the potential for restoring and adapting historic church buildings for worship and as innovative places ‘that enable communities to flourish’.
Guest speakers included architect Ian Hamilton who spoke about finding the “personality” of a church and making it more socially inclusive.
He said modernising places of faith so they were more practical, flexible and welcoming to both the congregation and local community could be the ‘key to the future’ for the survival of church heritage in SA. Past experiences in the United Kingdom indicated if people came to the church for a community event and felt welcomed, they might be more comfortable in returning to worship.
Reverend Paul Turley highlighted the regeneration of the Clayton Wesley Uniting Church through the establishment of The Spire Community. This initiative utilises the church building to welcome members of the community in programs and projects, including the Hope Café, a community garden, English classes for newly arrived people, an op shop, providing legal support for refugees and asylum seekers, and emergency relief.
Natalie Bull provided an overseas perspective via a pre-recorded presentation. As executive director of Canada’s National Trust she said the problem of sustaining and regenerating places of faith was not confined to Australia. In Canada, declining faith communities and deteriorating building stock had prompted some ‘serious soul searching’ and ‘innovative solutions’.
The conference also featured guest speakers from Heritage South Australia, the National Trust of SA, and the Anglican Church.
The Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide was represented at the conference by fundraising project manager, Jane Juniper.
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