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EDITIONS
 Wednesday, 8 January, 2003, 11:35 GMT
Churches urged to diversify
Generic country church
It is hoped around 20 churches will sign up
Churches and chapels in south west Wales are being urged diversify in an attempt to make places of worship central to community life.

Under the scheme the buildings could be transformed into tourist information centres, coffee shops and concert venues.

Churches are often massive buildings which can be used by the community, and not just for worship

John Winton, Churches Tourism Network Wales

The Opening Doors initiative is a Christian project which aims to increase the accessibility and profile of churches.

Organisers hope about 20 churches in Swansea and Carmarthenshire will follow the example of Mumbles Methodist Church, which is being redesigned to offer a range of facilities.

The pilot project, will run for a year and seeks to promote the use of churches for education and tourism purposes, as well as to help them develop as focal points for communities.

Organisers of the scheme, will offer advice on security and insurance issues, hope to extend it to other parts of Wales if it is successful.

The drive, which works with all Christian denominations, will be launched with a service at Capel Gomer in Swansea on Wednesday.

John Winton, the National Director of Churches Tourism Network Wales (CTNW) said that, although some churches were already very active within their communities, many were underused.

Mumbles Methodist Church
Mumbles Methodist Church is undergoing a major refit

"Churches are often massive buildings which can be used by the community, and not just for worship," he said.

"They are a big education resource, or could be a large spaces with lots of potential uses," he said.

Mr Winton understood that people were cautious about leaving buildings open.

"Locking the doors can be seen as an extreme reaction to relatively rare incidences of violence and defamation," he said.

Although it is primarily a Christian project, Mr Winton added that Opening Doors would respond positively to enquiries from other faiths.

Vulnerable churches

In September 2001, the CTNW organised a meeting of about 70 people to discuss how to prevent crime on church grounds while also granting access to the public.

Locked churches can be more vulnerable than open and busy ones

John Winton, CTNW

Representatives from the CTNW, which has been received Heritage Lottery funding, have also been liaising with the UK-wide National Church Watch.

"They have a web of expertise on making churches safer, and we have talked to insurance people and the police," he said.

"We can do risk analyses for churches which are interested - locked churches can be more vulnerable than open and busy ones."

The launch service will take place at 1500 GMT on Wednesday, led by Reverend Peter Dewi Richards, the General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Wales and the Bishop of Llandaff, the Right Reverend Dr Barry Morgan.


More from south west Wales
See also:

03 Jan 03 | Wales
09 Sep 02 | Wales
21 Jan 02 | Wales
04 Sep 01 | Wales
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