Anglicans speak on greening, transforming faith spaces

Many Anglican parishes across the country face the question of what to do with aging church buildings–churches and parish halls that have structural problems, waste energy, and are just too big for congregational needs.


Three Anglicans will be sharing the stories how their congregations tackled these problems at a conference in Ottawa on Oct. 26 called Mission Building: Regenerating faith property for faith missions with community partners.

Randal Goodfellow, chair of General Synod’s Creation Matters Task Group, the Rev. Canon Dr. Cathy Campbell of St. Matthew’s in Winnipeg, and Dean Shane Parker of Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa will all speak on the paths their parishes took and the challenges they faced.

Goodfellow’s parish in Ottawa, St. Luke’s, was looking for a way to update its worship space to make it both green and multipurpose.

“We wanted to create an environmentally friendly and comfortable space which we could worship in and others could use as well, says Goodfellow. “The first step was doing a subsidized green audit. It was the starting point for making the case to do those changes to the worship space.”

Pews were removed, and new environmentally friendly flooring was installed. Stackable chairs are now used for most seating. Four pews remain at the back for those who prefer, but now they are on sliders and easily moved to side of the sanctuary. This enables easy use of new labyrinth built into the floor, or–in a recent example–a quick conversion from sanctuary to space for a café art show.

That flexibility is part of a philosophy Goodfellow calls ‘mission per square foot.’

“You can green a building, but if you don’t use it, that’s not a good thing. Flexibility means you make better use of all the energy still being expended. Mission per square foot is about efficiency. Don’t just improve your building, use it.”

At Joint Assembly this past July, General Synod passed a resolution to create diocesan level Creation Matters task groups. One purpose of these task groups would be to encourage parishes to do green audits of their own and to “stimulate the creation of funds to implement environmental improvements recommended in green audit reports.”

Rev. Canon Dr. Cathy Campbell at St. Matthew’s in Winnipeg has been on a journey of building renewal with her congregation since 2003. They did their own energy and environment audits before green audits were available and found they had big challenges to meet. The church building, while grand, was in poor shape, and the congregation couldn’t afford to maintain it properly.

“The fact that we had to renew it was clear. How we were going to renew it was unclear,” says Campbell.

In the end, what resulted is the West End Commons. Targeted to be completed in March of next year, the church renewal will feature 26 units of affordable housing for families, a new dedicated worship space, and a neighbourhood resource centre.

“It’s affordable housing, which means that we had to build without a huge budget. However, doing a conversion rather than tearing down and rebuilding is actually a huge environmental statement. It actually costs more than a new build even though you’re reusing a huge volume of very expensive stuff.”

The Very Rev. Shane Parker, dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa, will speak at Mission Building on the cathedral’s project: building a condominium tower and townhouses on its west side, and a new commercial tower on the east side, both set to exceed the LEED gold environmental building standard.

Parker sees this development is an extension of the church’s ministry. “The cathedral’s a place for everybody. It’s got a great reputation as a safe and peaceful place for people of all faiths to gather for whatever reason. The community as a whole will enjoy the grounds, it’s very accessible. We’re coming into our own as an urban cathedral as opposed to something on the edge of the downtown core.”

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