Monday, February 08, 2010

Fresh Expressions of Ten Pin Bowling

A church is planning to open and run a ten-pin bowling alley to help bring jobs to its local community.

Towy Community Church plans to lease the 2.7 acre site of the former St Ivel cheese packing plant in Johnstown from Carmarthenshire council.

The 12-lane arena would create up to 20 jobs and profits will help fund community projects on site, including a food bank and free debt counselling.

Pastor Mark Bennett said churches had to change to engage with communities.
"Churches have to change the way they operate," he said. "I mean, keeping their core identity but changing the package and really connecting with our communities in the 21st century. So we have to serve and be 'salt and light' in our communities and not just preach on a Sunday."

The church's Sunday services would also be held at the new site, along with its furniture recycling scheme for people suffering hardship, a 50 seat café, a conference centre and performing arts activities for teenagers.

full BBC report here. Ht Joe Haward.

Yesterday I read about a church which still has box pews, and the deadening effect that has on worship (update: there are 2 sides to every story - see first comment below), and a couple of weeks ago highlighted one which has converted its Methodist chapel into a soft play area and cafe. It's encouraging to see local churches engaging with their community and designing their use of space around that.

Maybe we need a deal with English Heritage that for every church we agree to preserve as a historic monument (which is effectively what current planning regs require) another church is given carte blanche to revamp its premises. At the moment its easier to start from scratch (as in the case above) than it is to start from historic premises: most of the ideas they're contemplating would be non-starters in pretty much every Anglican setting I know, because of the issues around buildings.

Which all brings me back (again) to George Lings concept of the '7 sacred spaces' and how local churches can re-engage with a model of 'place' which has many facets, rather than just of being a gathering place for public worship. In the example above, and the Methodist soft play area, you could argue that an 8th space has been added: space to play. That doesn't figure highly in monasticism (!), but perhaps play is just as sacred as work, study, eating and worship. Now if that was a planning requirement for new churches......

(Graham Tomlin has more thoughts on pews and church buildings. Welcome to the blogosphere Graham!)


  1. my son and I were discussing the forthcoming day of Prayer for those with Autism/Aspergers. My son's view: the best week of the year is the one when I put up the trail in the CHapel, with tents. Why? because then in evensong he can crawl into the tent and feel safe. It's the most alive service of the year for him. He would LOVE boxed pews. He hates soft play areas, they stress him out. He may not appear to be "alive" in worship to everyone else, but you'd be missing something if you thought he wasn't engaged. If my church was tearing out boxed pews I would campaign to save a couple of rows for people who feel safe in their own space, and who hate the enormity of a noisy crowd so much that they can't concentrate on worship. Thanks, rant over now ;)

  2. Good rant! Hadn't thought of it that way at all.