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

A new DVD seeks to inspire local congregations to createattractive spaces to welcome the communities they serve. "Beyondthe Wood and Stone" is the initiative of Creative Arts in Methodismand the Property Office. Launched today at the MethodistConference, it aims to support congregations embarking on buildingschemes and to encourage every local church to use existingpremises more creatively.

Sarah Middleton, the coordinator for Creative Arts in Methodism,comments that "alongside Methodist initiatives, this whistle stoptour of the country shows exciting developments in Anglicanchurches and Local Ecumenical Partnerships as well as inter-faithprojects and youth culture initiatives".

"Beyond the Wood and Stone" incorporates a variety of inspiringstories from projects around the country. A church with a gym isfeatured in the chapter on "Healing", as is Fulham BroadwayMethodist's sanctuary for those affected by HIV/AIDS. We listen toa youth group who have refurbished their own church meeting roomwith an alcohol-free bar. We hear from those who have hostedexhibitions of the Methodist Church Collection of Modern ChristianArt and developed them as opportunities for conversations about Godand faith.

"The film expands to include the thoughts, experiences andknowledge of people who use the church buildings in ways notnecessarily associated with the church and worship. It illustrateshow socially significant the church is once more becoming in thecommunity through its buildings and the people and activities thatthe church embraces", says Paul Johnson, a London architect.

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

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

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