On 20th October 2015 the EDP team went to Chester to hold a workshop with churches that are part of the Diocese of Chester and are in the process of undertaking works in their building. The workshop focussed on exploring current challenges, assets and opportunities the churches face, to help plan future support activities: for these churches in Chester but also other churches who face similar issues when redeveloping their premises.
Two churches took part in the exercise. The first was St Peter’s Church, Chester, a Grade I listed red sandstone Gothic building. Located in the heart of Chester, it does not strike you as being an active place of worship; the cab driver that took us there for our site visit was adamant that this was not a functioning church. But it is an open church. As you come in the building through a flight of steps on the North on Chester Cross, you find there is a nice café, bustling with cups and saucers and chatter - it is a place to take a break from the business of the city. The church’s aspiration is to improve the café facilities and to make the interior work better for the activities that they hold in it. The second church was St Peter in Congleton. Also a Grade I listed church it has just had mayor roof repairs and is now looking to ‘unlock the future for all’ and to re-order parts of the interior to improve provision, access and inclusiveness for the community of Congleton and ensure the building’s resilience.
The workshop proved to be a great way to use design thinking to talk about the issues at hand such as finance and funding, design and identity, limitations of the buildings relating to their Grade I status, as well as issues around community participation and involvement of the congregation. Lots of food for thought for all parties involved.
We are using the same type of workshop with other places of worship - keep checking our website for updates about these workshops as well as to learn about our findings.