Richmond, Virginia—The Episcopal Church Building Fund’s annual symposium, “Buildings for a New Tomorrow”, is attracting widespread ecumenical, and now international involvement. “Buildings for a New Tomorrow” was created to bring together innovators to discuss ways in which church buildings can be used as real estate assets for the financial sustainability of congregations. It also explores ways to use church buildings and land so they are thriving hubs in the community. Participants can expect open and honest conversations with a focus on realistic approaches. This national gathering provides robust networking opportunities for support systems and creative synergy.
To underscore their support of this work, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s Mission Investment Fund and the United Church of Christ Building & Loan Fund are both underwriting the April 28-30, 2014 event, which will be held in Fort Lauderdale, FL. The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) are sending over a dozen senior ministers and staff to hear new ways of using church buildings to further congregational mission and increase revenue. Several Episcopal bishops and one new parish have donated funds to cover the travel costs of the wide variety of speakers that present at BFNT.
The Anglican Diocese of Toronto’s Dave Robinson will share methods they have created to strategically assess the sustainability of Canadian congregations who face challenges with financial self-sufficiency and maintenance of their church buildings.
The vision of usable space has expanded to include the land. The keynote speaker is Ron Finley, who has been described as the “Eco-lutionary Gansta Gardener of South Central LA.” He is well known for challenging the city government to allow growing produce in the parkway strip between curbs and sidewalks. He ended his online TED talk with, “Let’s plant some sh*t”, which is the theme of this year’s symposium. Finley was featured as the cover article in “Spirit”—the magazine of Southwest and AirTran airlines as well as The New York Times. His appearance at BFNT has been underwritten by Church Insurance, part of the Church Pension Group, an affiliate of The Episcopal Church.
“I am overwhelmed by this support,” said Julia Groom, ECBF president. “This just signifies how the challenges across denominations are affecting us all. To get this kind of diverse attention in just four short years tells me we’re onto something.”
Ms. Bonnie Anderson, former President of the House of Deputies and now senior warden of her parish in Pontiac, Michigan, an economically depressed city that was described as “the town for sale” since many public buildings are available for purchase, will “Light Lay People’s Pants on Fire”. The Rev. Dr. Patrick Duggan, Executive Director of the UCC Church Building & Loan Fund will also be a luncheon speaker.
Presentations have been designed for both returning attendees and first timers. Popular topics will return that address best practices for merging and closing congregations, and practical ways to save on energy costs. Also returning is the open forum panel in which Episcopal bishops take questions and offer their insights into where the church is headed. This year seven Bishops will participate. New offerings include ‘The Benefits of Being Strange’, ‘Ditching the Building’, ‘Rethinking Space and Architecture’, ‘Property Deals’ and ‘Farming, Priests, and Manure’. The Rt. Rev. Eugene Sutton is preaching at the open celebration of Holy Eucharist.
The ECBF was founded in 1880 as a self-funding and autonomous organization of the Episcopal Church to make loans to Episcopal congregations for building projects. In recent years its ministry expanded to help congregations redevelop themselves in the former and highly successful Start Up, Start Over Congregational Development training programs, and now Buildings for a New Tomorrow. More information is available at www.ecbf.org or by calling 804.893.3436.