CommunityCreative ParticipationToolkit

St Peter’s Churches

Year | 2016
Location | Cheshire (Chester and Congleton)
Client |  Diocese of Chester

In collaboration with the Empowering Design Practices research project

The church in the UK is rapidly declining but at the same time many churches want to be more socially engaged. The project is a navigational tool which uses participatory design practises to help guide churches to develop creative use of their spaces. We had two case studies, St Peter’s Chester and St Peter’s Congleton, which informed the research and design work to inform a wider audience.

We were invited by the Diocese of Chester to consider two churches, both named St Peter’s, both looking to use their buildings in more socially engaged ways but in two different contexts. Church of England congregation numbers in the UK are rapidly declining but at the same time many churches want to be more socially engaged. After interrogation of the brief the team focused on the wider question of ‘What is a church in the twentieth first century?’ prioritising the Diocese of Chester as the client.

Using the two churches as case studies, we formulated a Design Navigator for engaging communities in the redesign of their local church. This Navigator is intended to provide guidance for the two St Peter’s churches and other congregations facing similar difficulties across the Diocese of Chester and potentially nationwide.

The navigator includes a series of participation and consultation tools. We have consolidated data from funding and planning bodies to provide support along the path. Workshops and “check points” at each stage will facilitate discussion within the congregation and engagement with the wider community.

The two churches were at very different stages of design. As Chester is in the brief development stage they became a case study to test out the early steps of the Navigator whereas Congleton informed and developed the later activities as they have already invested in several strategy projects.

Our project ran alongside the longer time span of the Empowering Design Practises organisation who are also working with the Vestry Hall Live Project. This five year initiative is working to empower faith communities working in listed structures through participatory design. Our work will inform ongoing stages of this research.

This is more than an architectural project, it is an activation tool. We have engaged churches across Cheshire through research and questionnaires and hope that the Diocese and Empowering Design Practises can take this forward to continue creative learning with future projects.

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