Parish Vision Project
So what is the nature of the vision the Parish Council is developing?
Firstly, it is important to stress that the Parish Council feels that notwithstanding the crucial role the parish leadership has in establishing a field of vision, broad consultation is an important aspect of the vision-casting process. To that end, the following aspects of the vision casting process have emerged as points of agreement with the endorsement of the whole parish council in setting a field of vision for this process.
What kind of church are we planning for?
A growing church
Parish Council is firmly of the view that the future well-being of the Parish depends on fully utilising its potential to grow in scale, depth and outreach and seeks to avoid compromising the site for commercial or other non-parish purposes that would risk this potential. Parish Council hopes for a revitalisation of parish facilities and capabilities to stimulate the trajectory of growth and outreach that has been experienced in recent years and to mature into being a metropolitan church, a gathered community of people from across Canberra and beyond because of the type of Anglicanism that we embody. We also aspire to being a much more inter-generational church than we presently are.
A worshiping community and incarnational ministry
Based on an incarnational theology with a commitment to a ministry of physical presence and accessibility, the Parish has a clear ecclesiological identity as a liturgically oriented, musically focused, sacramental community which embraces its Anglican heritage. The Parish celebrates the life of faith woven into the seasons, church calendar and everyday life of the community. It nurtures and celebrates high quality liturgy and church music to enhance a sense of the beauty of holiness in worship. From its liturgical spirituality and sacramental focus flows a strong commitment to incarnational ministry, with a commitment to a ministry of physical presence and accessibility. The Parish has a strong commitment to being a community of compassion and care which is expressed through its pastoral care programme, its common life and resources dedicated to aged care ministry and social causes within and beyond the Parish. The rhythm of the daily offices, the commitment to quality public worship in the Anglican high church tradition, and engagement in social causes and caring action embeds St Paul’s as a sacred presence in its urban context.
A beacon/witness in Manuka
The St Paul’s building is distinctive in Canberra, traditional in design and situated on a highly visible site within a precinct that is heritage listed close to Manuka and Kingston as well as the Parliament of Australia and other national institutions. Gradually St Paul’s has become more a gathered community than a local suburban parish, to which people from across Canberra come because of its liturgical style, excellence in music and sound preaching and teaching. The Parish Council aspires for the Parish site to be a beacon or safe oasis amid a highly developed urbanised area of Canberra, a sacred space which is available, accessible and hospitable.
A place of community, hospitality and welcome for diverse groups of people
Building on its identity, the Parish wants to be able to use its site as a place to gather community, to offer hospitality and welcome, imbued with a sense of sacred space and presence. The parish wants to become a place of welcome where people find and are found by God beyond the limitations of Sunday Services. Critical to this vision is the continued on site presence of clergy. The Parish increasingly wants to provide for diversity, accommodating people from multiple generations and cultures, diverse abilities and from a range of locations in the ACT and surrounds. The church has built a strong sense of gathered community which is currently constrained by the lack of facilities.
A parish able to attract and retain high calibre leaders – both clergy and lay
Parish Council is also very conscious that to attract and retain high calibre leaders, capable of leading such a parish, St Paul’s must be able to provide amenity for the rector and rectory family family/families as well as the infrastructure to support fulfilling ministries for both clergy and lay leaders. Therefore, the provision of on-site amenity for the clergy and facilities to support parish leadership is a critical consideration.
What are the current constraints?
The current church hall building is ageing and reflects spaces designed for the church of the 1960s and does not meet current needs and expectations of amenity.
Due to accessibility and amenity issues with the Parish Hall, current congregations have only a small meeting room in which to gather which cannot accommodate the full cohort of regular attendees. There is little space for the burgeoning Children’s Choir, the parish choir, for study groups, for community focused discussion nor even to gather socially. When it rains, morning tea has to be cancelled.
While during Covid the Parish has made the best of these constraints, they are now real barriers to growth in numbers but more importantly the growth in the sense of community and an active life of faith within the St Paul’s community.
Equally critical is that the hall itself is unattractive and does not signal strong stewardship nor care for the built environment. It is a poor witness – unable to provide welcome and hospitality to others. There is no specific space for children, youth groups or families, so attempting to grow a multigenerational church is nearly impossible.
What is the ethos of the site we are planning for?
Exploration of how the church, grounds and other buildings might be improved and redeveloped or adapted to provide for a vibrant and growing community of faith with a strong presence and capacity for hospitality and witness in its wider community is an important part of this vision-casting process.
The site of St Paul’s Manuka needs to reflect a positive sense of the stewardship and care that the Parish exercises in the worship of God and the gathered life of the Christian community. It needs to be attractive, well-designed, cared for so that the site stands as a witness that we take seriously the work of faith with which we are engaged, that this is a place of care and welcome. The site needs to be a beacon that is able to attract and enable many to access not only the physical site but the sense of presence and faith that is lived out on the site. There needs to be a capacity to provide welcome and hospitality, and facilities that for people of all abilities and ages to access and feel at home on the site.
Where to from here?
Exploration of how the church, grounds and other buildings might be improved and redeveloped or adapted to provide for a vibrant and growing community of faith with a strong presence and capacity for hospitality and witness in its wider community is an important next step in the vision-casting process. This is all part of the establishing a vision for the future worshipping and common life of this Parish behind which we can all unite and strive for, and hold up to ourselves, the Diocese and our community as something that is worthy of fulfilment.
In order to ensure the fullest consultation of (to use a popular word in Canberra) stakeholders, Parish Council has decided to engage professional services of architects/urban planners to conduct a place-making audit and develop some planning concepts in order to assist with considerations for the church plant in this process of developing a vision for the future of the Parish. This is an exciting venture as together we explore our shared vocation as the Parish of Manuka. Parish Council has also established a sub-committee comprising Catherine Bohm, Greg Mills, Mary Pollard, Fiona Cochaud, Bruce Glendinning, Claudia Hyles and me to engage directly with the planners. While further information will be provided in due course once the formal process gets underway, there will be an opportunity to discuss the matters outlined above after our Zoom service on Sunday. In the meantime, I would ask that you commit this significant matter to your prayers.