Church members from across the two dioceses of Canterbury and Rochester were invited to examine and explore the welcome they give visitors to their churches at two workshops organised by the Diocese of Canterbury’s Communities and Partnerships Framework in March.
With many churches to be found closed, apart from on Sundays, the workshops focused on encouraging those involved in the running and care of churches, to think about how their buildings could be opened more regularly, and gave them tips and strategies so they could take those next steps towards opening their doors with increased confidence.
The workshops were led by Helen McGowan, instigator of the Divine Inspiration Project in the Diocese of Coventry, which supported churches and chapels in that area to take the opportunity to share the heritage and spirituality of their buildings with the wider community.
As well as a talk by representatives from the Ecclesiastical insurance company which provide insurance for most churches nationally, attendees were invited to conduct a ‘welcome audit’ of the church in which the workshops were taking place.
Helen McGowan explained: “The idea of the audit was to get people to try and experience the church as a visitor might. For those who are used to being in and around churches, it is sometimes easy to forget that the casual visitor might be very unfamiliar with the church environment and feel very intimidated.
“The audit gets people to look at a sacred building with fresh eyes and really analyse how welcoming it might feel, and what could be done to make the visitor’s experience a more positive one.”
Reflecting on what she hoped people would take away from the day, Helen McGowan added: “I hope everyone here leaves knowing that every church, whether it is big or small, rural or urban, can have a plan for developing their ministry of welcome.
“That plan will be unique to each church; with proper thought given to issues like security, so that everyone is confident about what is happening. Once done, there is much to be gained from taking the risk and welcoming the community in.”
Canon Caroline Pinchbeck, Director of the Diocese of Canterbury’s Communities and Partnerships Framework commented: “We have been delighted with the feedback we have received from all those attending the workshops, and I know many are returning to their churches inspired by the what they have heard, not just from our speakers, but from the experiences shared by their counterparts in other parishes.”Ends
Further information from: Jennifer Ross, Communities and Partnership Framework, Diocese of Canterbury: 01227 459401
Notes for editors
Photo: Slide showing welcome sign outside church
Photo: Helen McGowan leads the Open Your Church with Confidence Workshop
- The Diocese of Canterbury’s Communities and Partnership Framework aims to empower parishes and deaneries to serve their communities by working in partnerships with others. The Network has particular responsibility for rural and heritage issues, special interest groups, forging links with local authorities, other faith groups and with charities.
- Helen McGowan Biography: Helen has worked as a capacity builder for the Church of England since 2001. She advises Dioceses, Deaneries and Parishes as they explore ways of developing their own agendas for welcoming visitors to their places of worship. Helen McGowan devised and delivered the ‘Divine Inspiration’ project (http://www.divine-inspiration.org.uk/). This initiative, encouraging all places of worship to be open and welcoming to visitors seven days a week, was funded by English Heritage, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Diocese of Coventry. Divine Inspiration continues to encourage those with responsibility for church buildings to understand and tell their story, share them creatively and be open to all for activity other than worship wherever possible. Helen lives in Coventry and is currently undertaking project management work for the NHS and is in training to be a Registrar.