Keep the faith for blessed are the flexible

WILL HARVIE
Last updated 05:00 16/09/2013
Mel McGowan

SACRED GROUND: Mel McGowan on the site of the former St Pauls Trinity Pacific Presbyterian Church.

Mel McGowan
Mel McGowan

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Modern community churches need to be more than places of worship, a visiting American church builder says.

Mel McGowan, who was in Christchurch last week to assist the Presbyterian Church with its rebuild programme, said the trend in the United States was for sites that were not "Christian country clubs", used for a few hours on Sundays.

The goal was to throw them open to the whole community, even different faiths, as well as the secular, he said.

The architecture should be such that "people don't need an invitation to step inside".

"Even as we build walls, how do we tear down the walls between faiths and people?"

McGowan's design and construction company, Visioneering Studios, has played a role in hundreds of churches worldwide, including many US mega churches such as the Healing Place Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which seats 3500.

The company also works with small suburban churches and assisted 150 refugee families create a Christian village near Battambang, Cambodia.

While every congregation had a "soil-specific solution" the goal was not to be an "inward-looking faith community but a blessing to the community at large", McGowan said.

This means facilities the community can use, such as committee rooms, meeting spaces, facilities for children and teens, community gardens and the like.

While many Canterbury churches already provide such services McGowan suggested the Presbyterian repair and rebuild could provide more opportunities.

Darryl Tempero , a "resource minister" helping Presbyterian congregations recover from the quakes, said 10 out of 34 Presbyterian and Union congregations were unable to use their main halls of worship.

Most of these were experimenting with novel forms of worship for the future, he said.

Tempero is part of a "beer and barbecue church" in Lincoln.

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