I spent a fascinating afternoon in Oxford at a conference for Church of England officials on using church buildings for community benefit. There was a real commitment there and some great examples of projects.
My talk was on using church buildings (and land) for community owned enterprises, with co-operative examples from Jamaica and Ireland as well as the UK.
I laid down two challenges. Firstly, don’t just see this as a property issue. Church communities have as much to add as people as the building that they bring with them. Their values are also a major strength, as long as they accept the values of others as well.
Secondly, realise how much expertise is out there already. I suggested that 80% of the challenges they would face were the same as any other rural community-owned enterprise. Avoiding wheel reinvention could save a lot of their energy.
The event gave me a great deal of hope and I look forward to following it up with a meeting with the Churches Conservation Trust.