Before the summer we held a design engagement workshop at the Cemetery Road Baptist Church in Sheffield. The workshop was organised in collaboration with the Yorkshire Baptist Association (YBA). The workshop was aimed at people looking after historic places of worship and focused on creating an interactive space for exploring how good design can unlock the potential of their place of worship, for their congregation and for the benefit of the wider community. The Empowering Design Practices (EDP) team shared stories from groups who have already transformed their buildings, both small and large scale design projects, and introduced tools to help develop a clear vision for the future, and how to lead an inclusive design process that engages local people and unlocks local skills, assets and partnerships.
It was a great day with lots of sharing of ideas, experiences and knowledge. An impromptu tour of Cemetery Road Baptist Church unlocked conversations about the challenges and opportunities for places of worship wanting to open up their buildings for use by the wider community. Holding the workshop at a place of worship that is currently working to do just that served as a good backdrop for unlocking ideas and sharing stories.
“The day was very relaxed and informal, but packed full of useful information. The activities were fun and relevant but also gave us plenty to think about and sparked ideas of what might be possible in our building in the future". That’s what Rachel Dodds from Harehills Baptist Church had to say about a recent one-day workshop which members of her church and others from the YBA attended recently.
The workshop was a Design Engagement workshop, hosted by Empowering Design Practices (EDP), a five-year research project exploring how community-led design can help empower those who look after historic places of worship to create more open, vibrant and sustainable places.
The morning started with some inspiring stories of historic places of worship that had transformed their buildings through both small and large-scale design projects and unlocked the potential, both for their congregations and for the benefit of the wider community. We heard about tools that helped these churches to develop a clear vision and actively engage the community, unlocking local skills, assets and partnerships. We then interactively considered how each of us respond to places and design, by looking at a different set of design projects – it was interesting that what made some people love certain designs were the very things that made others dislike them intensely!
The afternoon was more practical and hands-on. Using a big outline of our church buildings, we sought firstly to capture the realities of our buildings as they are now – the things we like/work well and the things we don’t like/don’t work well. We then thought about the opportunities and challenges, culminating in identifying some short term, medium and longer-term goals for moving forward with our buildings.
"Our vision is for our church buildings to be attractive, making people want to be there. They should express our welcome and outreach to the wider community and provide space for relationships to grow. They should be environmentally sustainable. There should be a balance between conserving the buildings’ historic fabric and modernising to meet the needs of 21st Century worship, ministry and community use. This workshop fired our imaginations about how our places of worship could be catalysts for connecting communities." Mike Green, workshop contributor
Ann Chesworth is a member of the Harrogate Baptist Church.