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Spiritual Building Materials Greg Smith Credo Consultancy and University of East London Newham’s Faith Groups Over 300 groups 181 Christian congregations Pentecostal majority 22 mosques 10 other faiths (Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jewish etc.) 50 groups began since 1990

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Spiritual building materials l.jpg

Spiritual Building Materials

Greg Smith

Credo Consultancy and University of East London

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Newham’s Faith Groups

  • Over 300 groups

  • 181 Christian congregations

  • Pentecostal majority

  • 22 mosques

  • 10 other faiths (Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jewish etc.)

  • 50 groups began since 1990

  • 104 buildings (77% belong to Christian churches)

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Types of Building

  • Historical treasure

  • Victorian worship barn

  • Traditional mission hall

  • Settlement centre

  • Post war rational

  • Functional conversion

  • Shop front presence

  • Modern multipurpose

  • Rent a space anywhere

  • Pilgrim congregation

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Historical Treasure

  • Usually Anglican

  • Ancient parish

  • Set in a graveyard

  • 3 examples in Newham

  • One has nature reserve in the churchyard

  • Two are part of a team parish

  • Difficulty in adapting for community use

  • Grade 1 Listed Buildings

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Victorian Worship Barn

  • Catholic, Free Church and some CofE.

  • Problems of Maintenance Cost

  • Listed Buildings (grade 2)

  • Some have reordered internally

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Traditional Mission Hall

  • Mainly Evangelical or Old Pentecostal

  • Some limp on, some have renewed and grown

  • Some have changed hands

  • A few have adapted buildings through support from (quasi) denominations

  • One has relocated with a new building funded from LDDC compulsory purchase

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Settlement Centre

  • Large Victorian Christian Foundations

  • Multi Agency Community Work

  • Few retain own congregational life or spiritual emphasis

  • Several have converted to housing projects

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Post War Rational

  • Replacing what Hitler demolished

  • or should have demolished

  • Free church ecumenism (some CofE and RC)

  • tentatively multipurpose often with totally separate church hall

  • concrete and glass modernism fails to withstand vandals and heating bills

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Functional Conversion

  • Mainly new faith communities

  • Many Pentecostal and Muslim examples

  • Use large houses, garages, snooker halls, shops, cinemas, warehouses.

  • One Anglican has converted the vicarage

  • Planning Problems over change of use in residential areas

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Shop Front Presence

  • Many Muslim and Pentecostal examples

  • Many such properties available often on medium term lease

  • Avoids major planning disputes

  • Some preserve quasi commercial uses, e.g. Café or bookshop

  • convenient for local drop in users

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Modern Multipurpose

  • Mainly Church of England

  • One Hindu example in disused school.

  • Depend on partnership with state or voluntary sector organisation

  • Housing, Health service and Community / Youth service examples

  • Often complete new build

  • Not always sustainable under faith community management

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Rent a Space Anywhere

  • Mainly new churches

  • especially black majority Pentecostals

  • rent churches, schools, gym, town hall

  • often interim stage, wanting to buy

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Pilgrim Congregation

  • Using homes and/or minibuses, occasionally rent a venue

  • Towards the virtual cyber church

  • Travel light, minimal costs maximum flexibility

  • Few sustained examples in East London (mostly charismatic, or an order)

  • Not a proper, visible church?

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  • Using redundant places of worship

  • Chapels, churches and synagogues

  • become mosques, mandirs, Pentecostal centres

  • some change owners and uses several times over centuries

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Contemporary Uses

  • Redundant churches become, schools, factories, warehouses, housing

  • Some become secular community facilities

  • Charity Law demands sale to highest bidder

  • Some sites are cleared for new commercial buildings

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Theology, Mission and Ecclesiology

  • Is the group for itself or for wider community?

  • Is the group bound to a single ethnic culture?

  • Is it willing to adapt to modernity / postmodernity?

  • Does the group want to recruit?

  • Is the mission purely spiritual or more wholistic?

  • Is the group purist or pragmatic?

  • Will it accept “dirty” money?

  • Is the group a sect, denomination or church?

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Material Constraints

  • Existing built environment

  • State of the property market

  • Endowed funds of the congregation or denomination

  • Mean income of members

  • Giving levels of members (cash and labour)

  • Social capital links to people of wealth and power

  • Legal constraints, e.g. planning and charity law

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Religious Buildings: A secularisation paradigm

  • Pre Modern: We build a temple to the glory of, reflecting the image of our God. God dwells there. This building demonstrates the greatness of our city / civilisation.

  • Modern: We build or just rent a meeting place where God’s people can meet to worship and pray. God is in the midst of the people. In a competitive market the size and quality of the building shows the status of our faith community.

  • Post Modern: As a spiritual consumer I don’t need a building or even a faith community. If the religious institution keeps a building it must use it to meet other marketable consumer needs.

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  • In general faith communities in Newham are firmly in the modern era with regard to their use of buildings.

  • Material, especially economic, factors dominate decisions about the purchase, renovation and use of buildings.