Low-key worship: an essay in little boxes part 22

I’ve previously commented that the design of some of the public buildings proposed for the concreting over of Swindon’s front garden is, at best, ramshackle. Now it seems that a lack of funds will lead to the few religious buildings heading the same way.

The group called Swindon Churches Together has submitted a planning application for a place of worship portacabin, to be sited in the excitingly named Parcel 23 — or, as it now seems to have been renamed, The Stoweaway — of East Wichel, right next to the police point. I suppose we should commend them for choosing a design that will fit harmoniously with the surrounding development — the police point is also a portacabin.

The churches leading this plan are two local baptist churches, Old Town ecumenical parish and Wroughton Anglican parish. With such basic facilities, it’s not surprising that the group includes churches of a puritan persuasion. The supporting statement from the churches is an odd mix of pathos and over-optimism. First, the pathos.

The traditional church response in new housing areas has been to provide purpose built buildings for worship and with a view to community use. Christ the Servant Abbey Meads and Holy Trinity Shaw are two examples. The buildings have absorbed much money and local energy and with limited effectiveness.

Currently none of the major church denominations has funds available for the building of a church/community building in Wichelstowe.

So, new churches in north Swindon haven’t been a success, but they’d still like to build one in Wichelstowe if they have the money. With that logic, they should be grateful that they’re rather strapped for cash at the moment. Next, the over-optimism.

A new approach for community building
We would like to be on site as soon as possible offering moving day support and community information in order to welcome newcomers…. To fulfil this brief we would like to install a portakabin to work from that will also be a focus for early community activity. This might include a toddler groups
(sic), youth activities centre, a meeting place for community groups as well as a place for health professionals, council officials and members as well as other community activities.

That’s an awful lot to pack in to a single cabin that’s smaller than the homes little boxes being built around it. Unfortunately, in the current economic conditions, it’ll probably be the only community facility in Wichelstowe for quite some time. For that reason alone, one has can only wish them success.