Historic Churches 2018

32 BCD SPECIAL REPORT ON HISTORIC CHURCHES 25 TH ANNUAL EDITION OLD CHURCHES, NEW BEGINNINGS Colin McNeish C ONSERVATION OF any historic asset requires the protection of both its physical components and its significance. Where the asset is a place of worship, its use plays a particularly crucial role in defining its form, its character and its significance. However, keeping churches, chapels, and other places of worship in use can be difficult in an increasingly secular era. In Scotland there are around 2,600 listed places of worship, many of which are suffering from falling attendance. Here the Church Buildings Renewal Trust (CBRT) has been key in advocating the wider use of church buildings beyond their primary function of worship. As well as introducing the work of the trust, this article seeks to provide advice – and hopefully inspiration – to anyone involved in or considering a church renewal project. WHERE TO BEGIN Be inspired by example For anyone considering renewal, there is now a large resource of inspiring projects led by church groups who have thought laterally about how to turn around ailing fabric, diminishing congregations and poor connections with their immediate communities. These have resulted in some diverse and vibrant new uses for existing church spaces which provide meaningful service and support to local communities and have proved mutually beneficial. Explore the resources The process of sourcing grant-funding for projects can become a full-time occupation. It requires great perseverance not only because there are now so many awarding trusts who are willing to underwrite part of the cost of projects, but also because each application has to be carefully tailored to the specific funding source. Leverage can be an arduous task but persistence can be well rewarded. The best advice is to read the application guidance notes carefully. Engage with the community Grant aid and public funding will usually be dependent on demonstrating that the project is for the benefit of the community, and not for the congregation’s alone. However, engaging with the community can bring many more benefits, including much-needed assistance with maintenance, management and fund-raising. Consult trusted experts Historic fabric needs specialist care so it is important to carefully research potential consultants and contractors, looking at examples of their finished projects. There are well-established conservation accreditation schemes for architects, surveyors, structural engineers and conservator-restorers, and the website BuildingConservation.com can help you to focus your search (see http:// bc-url.com/accreditation) . Engaging a good conservation consultant is a wise investment and an essential pre-cursor to achieving a successful contract. ENGAGING WITH THE COMMUNITY At the outset of any project the key to success is to engage with local people and access the connections they have in their communities. But how do you achieve this in practice? CBRT has organised several workshops recently to explore how places of worship can be successfully used by the congregation and the community at large. One of the most productive of these provides useful lessons. It was held in Adelaide Place Baptist Church, Glasgow (itself an inspiring story of renewal) and was delivered in partnership with Empowering Design Practice (EDP, see Further information). This innovative group is currently engaged in a five- year research programme exploring how community-led design can help to empower those who look after historic places of worship to create more open, vibrant and sustainable places that respect and enhance their heritage. The project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Several church groups from different backgrounds were invited to attend the Glasgow workshop. All were on the threshold of commencing renewal projects in their respective places of worship, but none had progressed very far with any defined outcomes. Page\Park architects’ pod-like intervention at St Teresa’s RC Church, Glasgow to create a separate activity space (Photo: Page\Park architects)