Have a nature bath

In these frenetic times the #NatureBath series aids reflection, prayer, mediation and peace. This is social media for the common good. To see more or keep in touch: follow @ianwyllie on twitter.

A #WheeelyBeastFilms project. Everything you see has been filmed from a wheelchair. @IanWyllie is available for your creative interview or project around faith, disability, hope, recovery and Hampshire news.

Licensing

Licensed under an Attribution, Non Commercial, No Derivatives license is in force. In principle other licenses for specific users in the sphere of disability, mental health and religion could be agreed. Please contact Ian Wyllie.

Creative Commons License
Nature Bath Series by Nature Bath Films is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://vimeo.com/manage/showcases/6307526.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.exior.co.uk/wp/archives/2019/naturebath/.

Addressing access challenges

The access and sensory challenges posed by church buildings are significant, especially in the Church of England. An approach including nationally endorsed generic fabric changes by architectural period; requiring churches seeking to make fabric changes to present comprehensive access development roadmaps; and mandating consideration of community need in regard to hygiene related proposals.


Nationally endorsed generic changes by architectural period

The Church of England’s built estate is sufficiently large that there are few truly ‘unique’ examples or architecture from a given period. That is not to say, of course that there are no uniquely ‘valuable’ buildings

The Church Buildings Council or some other suitable body could draw up portfolios of generic adaptions for different architectural periods, with the cooperation of disability organisations, architectural professionals and ‘historical societies’. Parishes considering alterations could be assured that

  • these adaptions are proven both in functional and civil engineering terms.
  • Faculty applications for projects clearly using an appropriate generic design will be warranted to be favourably looked on by Diocesan Advisory Committees

Currently much expertise (above diocesan level) in alterations is vested in commercial architectural practices. This liberates this experience for the common good, and equips parishes to understand what sorts of adaption might work for their building, allowing them to focus on planning for development.

Comprehensive access development roadmap

Diocesan Advisory Committees (who grant planning approvals) should insist that any change to church buildings which has at its core sensory, hygiene or physical access adjustments be accompanied by a definite outline plan (including initial drawings) indicating a roadmap of all major changes necessary to ensure that the building will be no impediment to welcoming the whole community including the full spectrum of disabilities.

Presently it is possible for a parish to request a faculty (planning permission) for hygiene alterations, for example the provision of disabled toilet), when the relevant building continues to rely on a system of portable ramps to provide disability access. This provision combats the present non-sensical situation.

Community need consideration for any hygiene related change

Churches should be mandated to consider community benefit when changing hygiene provisions in their building, for example by altering toilets, installing disabled facilities, or changing areas.

For example a church installing disabled toilets should consider whether it can improve wider community accessibility through provision of a space meeting the Changing Places standard

Church Resource Hub?

Changes in patterns of ministerial service mean that a resourcing service at provincial level that can support the life of faith in the local parish church is urgently needed. An enabling Hub can draw locally generated resources into a national asset library. Such a hub is a critical necessity to equip commissioned or licensed lay leaders so they may serve and sustain the light of incarnate faith in local churches across England.


One of the humbling and inspiring features of the Church of England is the quality of thought, discernment and creativity found in the people of faith scattered across the 15,000 or so parishes. The commitment to subsidiarity in the Anglican churches, including this Church of England, means that there are few readily available platforms for drawing these invested gifts back to make them available for the common good across the wider church.

An authorised hub with national leadership would allow the best content and resources produced in Church of England to surface for the benefit of the whole people of God.

Why is this needed?

Changes in the pattern of ministerial deployment and creative acts by Bishops in various places are leading to the rapid authorisation via ‘Bishops Commission’ or similar instrument of lay people to act as service leaders, discipleship coaches, as pastoral workers or preachers.

The probability of success for such initiatives would be greatly enhanced were resources available to this new cadre of lay leaders in the church.

What sort of resource are we talking about?

Predominantly resources which enable the new cadre to effectively serve their congregation in their role. We anticipate that very many of these leaders will be ‘time poor’ and that resources which enable them to spend more time ‘doing’ and less time ‘preparing’ will predominate. Four classes of material might be considered:

  • drawing existing resources together with minimal modification
  • providing access to appropriate projects provided by para church organisations, or research by appropriate bodies.
  • adapting existing programmes from specific churches or areas to make them ‘widely deployable’
  • Least commonly, at least initially, to commission specific projects.\

How would we know what to provide in such a hub?

The true scope of such hub can only be precisely determined as users interact with the service. The project would benefit from an Agile approach similar to that commonly used in software development which would iterate rapidly from minimally viable product based on the analytics gained from users.

Why doesn’t it happen already?

The commitment to subsidiarity in the Anglican churches mean that there are few internal organisational vehicles for sharing the true span of the quality of invested in the lives of the faithful. Many excellent para church projects contribute valuable work in specific areas, but there is a specific lack of a provincially authorised source of curated products.

What models could we look at and learn from?

The model of the best bits of Open Access publishing in the Academic world is striking. Here are ‘Journals’ of every flavour, which provide a neutral space for academics from many different (and frequently competing) institutions to share knowledge. Typically they are managed by a largely volunteer editorial board, and the requirements for peer review, and other academic activities are met voluntarily from within the user community.

Recent developments have seen the Open Access community focusing on preserving the entire asset stack relating to the research paper – rather than just the final text. This move the Open Access journal towards a fusion of a document server and digital asset mangers.

These developments both conceptual and suggest that both in terms of concept and available platforms the church could be pushing at an open door in implementing such a resource hub.

Who should run this?

People who understand

  • the software design aspects of the problem
  • the user needs and interface issues
  • the existing resources available across the world
  • the future of the English Church
  • developments in missiology

What roadblocks might exist

Proposed digital products such as this require considerable user literacy, which evidence suggests is lacking in wider congregations. Whether it is lacking in the specific cadre of new ‘lay leaders’ is unclear. There are also barriers relating to bandwidth in some of the more isolated parts of the country, which mean there may need to be a physical media request service.

Finally where resources include provision for leaders to interact with digital products in the context of leading services there are issues because many churches lack the hardware to permit this. It may be necessary to think creatively and provide a standardised product similar to a mobile digital advertising display adapted to be suitably elegant and compatible with the listed buildings etc, to aid the delivery in some of the smallest and most delicate settings.

Where did this idea come from

I’m indebted to a collection of people including Tom Pearson for ideas presented at the 2018 Church of England Digital Labs hack day concerning a project called the ‘Church Support Hub’. 

 © Ian Wyllie 2019 for this post, with every expectation of sharing freely in the Church should someone be interested in taking the ideas on. I assert my moral rights etc. 

The names we choose…and are given in the Church of England

Questions about digital conversion efficiency of church, parish and benefice names in the Church of England

In the social media / digital product domain what is the most effective form for naming:

  1. parishes
  2. multi-parish benefices

In this context effectiveness has three dimensions:

  • conversion efficiency in terms of ‘engagement’
  • openness to messaging from
  • affinity to church / parish / benefice

If you work or help with communications in a church with many congregations or a denomination with many churches how do you handle this. I would love to hear from you. I’m @ianwyllie on twitter or comment below… 

Why this question important?

In our area we see, and the anecdotal evidence also suggests that:

  1. There is poor recognition:
    • of the names the Church of England uses for benefices and ministry units larger than one parish
  2. Parish names are typically
    • longer than is ideal for conversion on social media and convenient display in digital products
    • do not unambiguously connect the parish to the Church of England
    • do not unambiguously locate the parish geographically
  3. Church names
    • do not unambiguously locate the church geographically
    • do not unambiguously connect the parish to the Church of England
  4. We also see confusion between ecclesial and civil parish names and their boundaries.

Some observations:

There is no common pattern for the naming of multi-parish benefices. Yet these supra parish structures are becoming more and more common, and often function, and are encouraged to function, as integrated ministry units. Here are some names in use locally with issues I note

  • The Church of England in Village, Village, and Village (a benefice) used by Ampfield, Chilworth and North Baddesley where I assist with communications, but is cumbersomely long and doesn’t convert as well as we hoped. This suggests to us that either
    • the association between the local church name / dedication and the geography is strong, OR the association of the church name / dedication and Church of England is weak
    • There is poor recognition of the name / dedication of the church – its simply ‘the village church’ and understanding of a) name / dedication or in fact denomination is weak
  • The ‘Avon Valley Partnership’: Partnership of what? relating to which Avon? – two Avon rivers in Hampshire, nine in the UK – three in Scotland)
  • ‘North Hampshire Downs Benefice’: Geographically this area is diffuse and the ‘Benefice’ seems to be very poorly understood
  • ‘Pastrow Benefice’ 12 churches in the Diocese of Winchester. Pastrow is a historic ‘hundred’ division of Hampshire
  • All Saints C of E:
  • All Saints Church in Village
The Owl is watching… and always wise.

Keeping missions at the heart of church events.

Churches can get so involved in running excellent, welcoming events that talking about the big story of God falls out the bottom of the bucket. Starting to get God back into the visitor picture is easy and not expensive. A simple reusable large format printed display can help draw visitor attention to the church and the loving God we worship and adore.

 The practical bit

It’s cheap and easy:

  • You have the camera on your phone. I might prefer something else, but most smartphones are very adequate in decent lighting.
  • A1 printing costs start at around £6 / sheet in the UK (2017).
  • A reusable display board (shown) might be free if you manage to recycle one, or might be a few tens of pounds if you purchase second hand.
  • The software to do the layout is available as libre / free download. Lots of things would do the job, but Inkscape and Scribus would be a good place to start.

 The easy part

Designing this sort of poster is easy to do competently. The example shown uses a very simple grid formed by mutual subdivision. This link is from 2005, but the advice is sound. Everything else is simply a matter of consistency and thinking about the message payload.

 The hard part

The hard part comes down to the people. If you’ve got a church that’s on the edge of managing decline and perhaps needs this event to work financially as part of a tight operations budget, then you may have a struggle. Convincing people the the missions of God are always the primary thing a church is for when they are tired and dejected can be really hard.

 The disclaimer

This is a really quick post, which I popped up after thinking about what the churches I help have been up to over the past few months with Art Exhibitions, History Exhibitions, Theatre performances and all sorts of amazing stuff. I’m blessed to be helping at churches where, despite their very different traditions, it’s an easy ask to make sure God stays in the picture. .