We have spent a great deal of time talking and
brainstorming - now we want to get going on improving our church
for contemporary use.
ALTHOUGH I think of "getting down to work" as a pathway of
things to be done, it is more like a circle, because, whichever of
these tasks you do first, you will still have the others to do
before much is achieved.
What is your foundation? Assess and make a robust summary of the
church's situation, finance, and ac- tivities, as well as the state
of the building. With a new contact, I start by reading the annual
report and accounts, the Quinquennial Report on the building, an
overall Statement of Significance, and any other material that
gives information on the current state of play.
There are many questions. Are there items of note? Are the
finances healthy or struggling? Are there activities filling the
available space, or is it a hope that changing the building will
get something going? Are there significant, and by implication
expensive, repairs that must be undertaken in the short or medium
term that would interrupt reordering work? Are the reordering works
seen as an extension of a stable situation, or are they an attempt
to make the church relevant, viable, and sustainable? The answers
will inform how action is taken.
What is the basis for change? Most churches, in reordering, are
seeking to increase the interest and engagement of local people in
the church. Are new people interested in using the church, and for
what? Are familiar people asking for new activity or access? Is
your plan to have new activities run by church members, or will
"outsiders" book space?
Do you have a plan for how you will organise and run activities,
how often, for how many, and when? And is there a plan for managing
a busier church: administration, budgeting, cleaning, caretaking,
and key-holding? Funnily enough, each of these aspects will inform
the detailed design for increased use. Differentiate between
pressing needs and demands, and your best hopes.
Then the project is a question of steps. The many aspects and
elements of the project have to be broken down into a series of
achievable steps that are within the capabilities of those planning
and overseeing the development and the works.
Try and ascertain if the plans are achievable. How much money do
you already have towards the works? Should the work be phased for
financial or other reasons? If most of the funds have to be raised
externally, a phased approach to the works is probably the most
desirable. The first step could be to spend money already raised on
the most pressing works. Then tackle other works.
Once you have a well-understood assessment of where you are, and
where you want to go, and why, widen your group to include your
architect - and your quantity surveyor. After briefing, you will
assess with your architect the physical solutions that are
possible. This will result in recurring changes in your "plans";
and when they are presented to the DAC and others, there will be
more changes. But if you know on what foundation you are working,
and the reasons for modifications, you will be able to negotiate
your way through the steps.
Expect it to take at least one year to get to building works -
if you have the money to hand - but if you then have to raise the
necessary money from worshippers, the neighbourhood, or trusts and
other funders, expect to add a year or two.