Re-orientating the Parish


Having had a pretty poor week last week I really wanted to crack after my tutorial to make up the difference. On Wednesday I returned to Battersea to visit the archive and also to map all the places of worship in the area with the intention of spatialising my ideas. During my trip I went to every church and holy building in the area. There was just one non-Christian place of worship, a mosque which is representative of the predominantly Christian or non-religious population. There was quite a lot of variation in the Churches from classically gothic churches to Victorian style and modern builds. Several were located in old halls or were on the upper floor of building with other functions within them. The variation is often in line with the branch of Christianity. Anglican and Catholic churches were mostly older Victorian or earlier and historically related to their parish whilst the Evangelical, Methodist or more contemporary branches of Christianity use less stereotypically Christian looking buildings. I also recorded the secular provision advertised by each holy building to gain a better understanding of their community role.


I’ve mapped the churches, parishes and secular provision in Battersea to understand the role of the church in the community and look at it spatially. Following this I interviewed a volunteer at St Mark’s, one of the more predominant churches in Battersea. I wanted to understand the relationship between the church, the congregation and the community. The volunteer I spoke to was telling me how the church’s congregation are largely from Wandsworth and Lambeth which is clearly far larger that the churches historic parish. She believed they came because of the style of preaching at the church and so are willing to travel further afield. The congregation is in contrast to the users of the churches secular provision. Much of the secular provision such as support groups for single parents, youth club, children’s groups are used by the direct community in the area. These amenities are considered worthwhile to the church as they promote Christian values in the community and as all are held within the church, they bring people to the church even if its not for worship. She also discussed how people in the community will come to the church if they need help with things such as mowing their lawn or other tasks, it is embedded in our culture as a society to go to the local church social support. They also get referrals from Wandsworth council which also adds a new cultural connection between contemporary secular council provision and the Christian faith.




As a response to this I’ve begun to think of the historical parish from a new perspective. Historically they indicated the boundaries of parishioners to the local church who could then go to the church to worship as well as if they were in need. This historical tradition of community social support appears to still be present but the communal worship aspect is less related to the direct community. Therefore can the parish as a historic space be re-orientated to the secular world we now live in to provide a more inclusive support system?


This is how I’d like to develop the project further I think. Looking at the void mono-faith society has left in terms of social interaction and provision. How can we build on a Christian cultural structure but make it more inclusive to our multi-faith society? As a portfolio idea I’ve also begun to think of creating a parish magazine for the project to show community interaction and the impact of my proposal. John Erskine Clarke, the vicar for St Mary’s in Battersea from 1852 also created one of the forerunners for Parish magazines in the country which is a relevant tie in with this idea.

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