Open Presence at St Olave’s
As part of our Capital Vision to be more compassionate in serving communities with the love of God the Father, one of our priorities is to open up our church buildings to the wider community. On Monday 6th June, around 50 clergy and laypeople gathered at St Olave’s Church Hart Street to hear a collection of presentations around how to open up your church to the public with confidence.
The fourth in the series of Open Presence events explored how tapping into the heritage of your church might be a good place to begin as you open up your church to more visitors and events.
The event saw a group of around ten individuals from a range of settings give insightful and inspirational presentations on their experience of opening up the doors of the Church. Attendees heard speakers from the Historic Religious Buildings Alliance, the Churches Conservation Trust and the National Churches Trust amongst others, alongside clergy, churchwardens and members from various churches across the Diocese.
The morning was opened with a welcome from Revd Oliver Ross, Rector at St Olave Hart Street and Area Dean to the City, in which he shared a little about the heritage of St Olave’s and the way in which this often attracts visitors to the church. St Olave’s is one of the few mediaeval churches that survived the Great Fire of London in 1666, and so stands as an interesting and exciting historical landmark for many visitors making their way around the City. Following this introduction, Archdeacon Rosemary Lain-Priestley shared an insight into the importance of Open Presence and the vision which we share as a Diocese to welcome more of our communities through our church doors.
Through practical advice from organisations including the Heritage Lottery Fund and Ecclesiastical Insurance, this Open Presence event covered the basics and the more in depth parts to opening up your church to the public. Particularly notable, was advice from Sarah Crossland (National Churches Trust) on ‘Weaving into the World Wide Web’ – apt for our Capital Vision priority of seeking to communicate the Gospel more effectively using opportunities provided by new media. Sarah shared the importance and the benefits when inviting visitors to your church, of ensuring that you are well represented online, whether that be through your own website, or via any number of social media platforms.
Phil Manning, church manager at St Olave Hart Street, Howard Watson, former churchwarden of St Nicholas Shepperton, and the Revd Christopher Ramsay, Vicar of St George Southall, each shared part of their story and experience of the Open Presence journey, with both its challenges and great joys. Howard shared some of the journey of St Nicholas Church in applying for funding, and following their eventual success, some of the plans which they have for future projects. Revd Christopher explained some of the unique facets of St George’s which make it brilliant for opening up to the community and welcoming visitors – from a flexible worship space which can be cleared to accommodate ‘fun days,’ to the organ housed in the church – ‘the best surviving example of an 18th Century Abraham Jordan organ in the world.’
Overall, this was an educational and inspirational day for clergy and laypeople alike, and a huge encouragement to know that it is indeed possible to open up the doors of our churches to help serve the wider communities in which they are set.
For more information on Open Presence events, keep an eye on our Events page.