If it is true that the Hobart North Uniting Church, on the fringe of the city’s central business district, had previously been invisible in one of the city’s best known restaurant strips, it is certainly not the case now.
A $1.4 million redevelopment – officially opened on 2 March – has transformed the site into a contemporary building which commands attention on the corner of Elizabeth and Swan Streets.
Rev Rod Peppiatt is the minister at Hobart North UC.
“In the past, if you said where we were you had to add the descriptor of opposite the State Theatre or the post office,” he said.
But creating a ‘look at me’ presence was never at the forefront of the congregation’s mind when it began the process of designing a building. The aim was to better met its needs and its mission to be a uniting community.
“This is who we are,” Mr Peppiatt said. “We are establishing a presence but it is what we do with it now, missionally, which is important.”
Mr Peppiatt said the congregation was well aware that the building itself would never define the church. That would be done by its people.
“We want to be known for our people and what they do to enrich the community,” he said.
“Building a building and building a community have been alongside each other throughout – we want to create a uniting community nurturing spirit, sharing hospitality and practising faith.”
Mr Peppiatt said the church was currently developing a range of partnerships which will impact on the life of the community, rather than just establishing tenancies.
The Tasmanian Youth Choir is working on a memorandum of understanding with the church to develop a presence broader than simply a rehearsal venue. Other similar arrangements are at an embryonic stage.
The old building did not allow for much movement away from a very traditional worship style.
Now it has a large level access area which includes a worship centre, open-plan gathering, a modern kitchen, meeting rooms and a small private chapel. The bottom level includes office and meeting spaces as well as a gathering area used by community groups.
Particular care was taken to confine the building’s footprint so as not to encroach too far onto church-owned land fronting Elizabeth St.
“It is set up to be clearly Christian, but accessible to people who don’t have that particular framework,” Mr Peppiatt said.
That aim was clear in the opening, with a worship service followed by a shared lunch and an unveiling designed to allow guests to attend all or part of the celebrations.
Mr Peppiatt said the open plan nature of the internal design would allow the building to be altered or configured as future congregations consider appropriate.
“I look forward, in years to come, to see how congregations make changes to reflect their needs,” Mr Peppiatt said.
In June 2006 the congregations of North Hobart and New Town-Moonah came together to form the Hobart North congregation.
Proceeds from the sale of former New Town-Moonah properties assisted in the financing of the redevelopment, together with grants from the Board of Mission and Resourcing (BOMAR) and the Tasmanian Community Fund.