28 June 2005

Churches are encouraged to go "Beyond the Wood and Stone"

A new DVD seeks to inspire local congregations to create attractive spaces to welcome the communities they serve. "Beyond the Wood and Stone" is the initiative of Creative Arts in Methodism and the Property Office. Launched today at the Methodist Conference, it aims to support congregations embarking on building schemes and to encourage every local church to use existing premises more creatively.

Sarah Middleton, the coordinator for Creative Arts in Methodism, comments that "alongside Methodist initiatives, this whistle stop tour of the country shows exciting developments in Anglican churches and Local Ecumenical Partnerships as well as inter-faith projects and youth culture initiatives".

"Beyond the Wood and Stone" incorporates a variety of inspiring stories from projects around the country. A church with a gym is featured in the chapter on "Healing", as is Fulham Broadway Methodist's sanctuary for those affected by HIV/AIDS. We listen to a youth group who have refurbished their own church meeting room with an alcohol-free bar. We hear from those who have hosted exhibitions of the Methodist Church Collection of Modern Christian Art and developed them as opportunities for conversations about God and faith.

"The film expands to include the thoughts, experiences and knowledge of people who use the church buildings in ways not necessarily associated with the church and worship. It illustrates how socially significant the church is once more becoming in the community through its buildings and the people and activities that the church embraces", says Paul Johnson, a London architect.

The DVD is ideal for use with church council meetings, property stewards and mission groups and aims to promote greater realisation of the Priorities of the Methodist Church at a local level. The focus is on making church premises more accessible, friendly and culturally relevant. It can be viewed in 'bite-size chunks' and encompasses a variety of topics including listed buildings, performance in worship, and outside spaces.

The Revd Ron Smith, a London minister, says "As someone involved in the early stages of rebuilding a fire-damaged church, I found it full of ideas which I'm sure will help us in this task. I especially valued the examples of places where the visual arts have been taken seriously".

From this summer, a website (www.beyondthewoodandstone.org.uk) will be up and running to help viewers make contact with some of the places featured in the film.

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