The parallels between the retail sector and the church is an area that is of great interest – retail has much to teach the church, but the key question is drawing the right lessons and not the wrong ones. Revd Philippa Boardman’s excellent session at the recent National Archdeacons’ Conference at Swanwick told the story of rebirth of St Paul’s Old Ford in East London and brought out some wider lessons. For me the highlight was her co-option of The Portas Review, and particularly her section on ‘My vision’ which, if you want to see the original, is on page 14.
To demonstrate the proximity of church and this vision for the future of the high street, Philippa took this vision statement and simply substituted the word “church” in place of “high street”; the text then read as follows:
I want to breathe economic and community life back into our
Let me spell out my vision of the future.
I don’t want to live in a Britain that doesn’t care about community.
And I believe that our
high streetschurches are a really important part of building communities and pulling people together in a way that a supermarket or shopping mall, however convenient, however entertaining and however slick, just never can.
I want to put the heart back into the centre of our
high streetschurches, re-imagined as destinations for socialising, culture, health, wellbeing, creativity and learning. … The new high streetschurches won’t just be about selling goodsworship. The mix will include shopsspace for worship but could also include housing, offices, sport, schools or other social, commercial and cultural enterprises and meeting places. They should become places where we go to engage with other people in our communities, where shoppingworship is just one small part of a rich mix of activities.
This will be the new value.
High streetsChurches must be ready to experiment, try new things, take risks and become destinations again. They need to be spaces and places that people want to be in. High streetschurches of the future must be a hub of the community that local people are proud of and want to protect.
For me this is as compelling a vision for the church as it is for the high street and provides lots of food for thought. Clearly the church is (or should be) all about standing in the centre of the local community; and yet I suspect there are few churches that could not learn something from the vision statement above.
Look out for further posts that pick up some of these ideas in more detail.