Focusing on mission is helping congregations make decisions about church property to adapt to changing circumstances and manage a process that can be both exciting and daunting.
Manningham Uniting Church and the Banyule Network of churches, both in Melbourne’s north-east, have reached important milestones as they participate in the Asset Strategy Program (ASP), which helps congregations with complex property configurations best utilise those properties.
The Banyule Network, which consists of five congregations with a single church council, was the first body to embark on the ASP process. Earlier this year the synod’s Property Board approved its preferred option.
Banyule is turning its Burgundy Street, Heidelberg site into a community hub and is looking for a developer to partner in the project.
The hub will include church and other community facilities, such as the long-running café and shared office space, plus residential development.
The network will also retain and upgrade sites in Ivanhoe and Heidelberg Heights.
Two unused manses and the East Ivanhoe church and grounds will be sold, while decisions are being made as to the sale and development of a church site at Bellevue Avenue.
Lisa Stalder is part of the Banyule Network’s Project Control Group which is responsible for overseeing the six-year plan titled Building for Mission.
“It’s all about looking at what we need to do for the Uniting Church to have a presence in the Banyule area in 20, 30 years,” Ms Stalder said.
“From a missional perspective it is about understanding the groups in our community who we want to support and engage with and understanding how we can bring the word of God to the community in ways that are appropriate and effective.
“It is absolutely also about ensuring that we have financial sustainability.”
Ms Stalder said the capital works associated with the program will be funded by church asset sales, which also support pastoral care.
“This process is a real balance of taking the forward-looking, future excitement side of things but also thinking about how to support the people for whom this isn’t exciting but daunting,” Ms Stalder said.
Manningham Uniting Church, which consists of a single church council formed out of four congregations in 2012, received Property Board approval for its preferred option in July.
Under this plan the church is developing a community hub in Templestowe, while another site at Woodhouse Grove, Box Hill North will be redeveloped with a mix of church buildings and residential housing.
Two other church sites and an extra manse will be sold in a staged process.
Wendy Austin, chair of the Manningham Church Council, said the ASP “came at the right time” when the recently merged congregations were exploring their joint future together.
“Basically the whole ASP path I felt was very well done because it started with and focussed on mission,” Ms Austin said.
“We have been given the opportunity to choose to sell Uniting Church under-utilised property assets and use some proceeds to build a welcoming hub and offer new and connected ways of being as Christians active in the community.
“If we are able to create sustainability and income and also release funds back into other UC congregations that don’t have access to the same assets we had, that is a very positive outcome.”
Other congregations participating in the ASP are Coburg, Grovedale, Boroondara in Victoria and South Esk in Launceston.
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