THE FUTURE OF LISMORE CHURCH, THE CHURCH HOUSE AND GLEBE

 

QUESTIONNAIRE COMING SOON – PLEASE LOOK OUT FOR IT!

 

What’s happening?

The Church of Scotland (CoS) has indicated that it plans to dispose of Lismore’s church building, with a deadline of December 2023. This is happening across Scotland, as the CoS reviews its estates in the climate of rising maintenance / running costs and reduced budgets.

Lismore Community Trust has convened a cross-community working group, comprising representatives from all the main community organisations, to consider options and to negotiate with the CoS on the community potentially, taking ownership of the church buildings and land. 

At a public meeting on 13th October, it was agreed that the working group should proceed with discussions with the CoS, on the basis that the church building, church house and the glebe land should be offered to the community as a package, since the other elements would be crucial to the feasibility of maintaining the church building. 

It was also agreed that an open community consultation should be conducted, to give all islanders an opportunity to air their views and to build consensus on a vision for the properties and their future use and management.

Agreement on the intended future of the church building and associated facilities is needed now: it is necessary for negotiations with the CoS and is a pre-requisite to the development of successful funding bids – one of the key questions asked by funders will be “what will the buildings and land be used for”.

 

What happens next?

Community consultation is planned between now and the end of February 2023, with the expectation that it would be fully complete by Easter at the latest. A plan and schedule has been prepared and circulated – this is flexible and can be adapted in light of feedback from earlier stages. The first step is to gather views and start to prepare a list of ideas put forward by islanders and you will soon be invited to respond to a questionnaire for this purpose. The following stages will be a participatory workshop and a community consultation event, where we will start to discuss ideas and collectively, try to evaluate and prioritise them. Participants will be given the opportunity to choose their top options/ ideas and these may also, eventually, be put to a community vote in a closed ballot, depending on whether or not there is an obvious consensus for any one option. In any case, the preferred option (once identified) could be included in the final community ballot on whether  to take ownership of the church buildings and land. 

Updates will be provided to the community at each stage and feedback invited, so there will be opportunities for individuals to contribute even if they are unable to attend the workshop or event. 

A questionnaire will be circulated soon – a box will be left in the shop and one on the Point ferry for completed questionnaires, or these can be collected by request.

The church is an historical building of national and international importance. It forms an important background to many of our lives, whether or not we attend church regularly; most folk use it at some stage in their lives - at Christmas or Easter, for weddings and funerals. Also, the site is a Scheduled Monument and Argyll and Bute Council own the graveyard, adding to the complexity involved in managing the building. 

 

Please, tell us your views on the church buildings as this will help us (collectively) secure their future for the community.  

Contact Mandie Currie for more information on the consultation process or if you wish to help (volunteers gratefully welcome): mandielismore@btinternet.com or 0791 937 3097 or 760236.

Lismore Church: draft plan and schedule for community consultation and engagement, commencing November 2022

At the community meeting held on 13th October, it was agreed that an open public consultation process should be undertaken, to agree a vision for the church building and associated facilities (church House and Glebe ground) should the community decide to pursue ownership – What will it look like?

Purpose of the Community Consultation:  to build consensus on the preferred use of the church and associated facilities, if these are passed to community ownership.

NB: The Working Group has already identified that the preference would be for the community to take ownership of the church building, church House and the Glebe land as a package as these associated facilities will be key to securing a sustainable future for the church building, while retaining access and use by the community.

A Vision for the church and its proposed use is an important prerequisite to negotiations with the Church of Scotland on asset transfer as they will require confirmation that the community has a viable proposal. It will also be an essential requirement for successful funding bids – a basic question asked by most funders of community buildings is “what will it be used for?” It is really important therefore that we try to build consensus on the future use of the church now, as delay could compromise these other stages. 

There may be suggestions of conflicting or contradictory ideas and not everyone’s suggestions can be taken forward. But we will do our best to ensure that everyone’s ideas are noted, discussed and considered. The process won’t be easy but an open and democratic consultation and engagement will aim to give everyone an opportunity to contribute equally and have their say. 

It may not be possible to achieve a clear consensus through democratic debate but the consultation process will at least help to identify priorities, which if necessary, can be put to a vote through a closed ballot. In any case, any clear preference would be expected to be included in the final ballot that will be put to the community on whether or not to seek ownership of the church building, House and Glebe.

 

The Lismore Church Working Group has agreed a number of principles:

1) Lismore church and grounds have local, national and international importance and must be protected as part of our heritage for now and future generations.

2) The church and grounds need to be managed by a suitable organisation to ensure they are kept fit for purpose and developed productively.  

3) The condition and maintenance demands of the church are such that significant financial resources will be required to fulfil principle 1 

4) The combined assets of the church, church house and glebe should be used in such that they provide maximum benefit to realising principle 1 

5) Any development and or changes to the assets should be undertaken in partnership with key groups and businesses on the island.

Community Consultation process – Key principles

ü  All genuine ideas will be heard and recorded

ü  Ideas will be considered collectively in an open forum

ü  All participants agree to demonstrate respect for each other’s views

ü  Consultation is a process and a variety of approaches will be used, aiming to provide options that suit different ways that individuals wish to engage

ü  The process will move towards an end point and feedback will be provided at every stage, on outputs, outcomes and the proposed next steps

ü  The process will be flexible, adaptable and iterative – the process may change following feedback from previous steps

ü  At each stage, participants will have the opportunity to help shape and plan the next step of the process

ü  Participants will be involved in planning and delivery of the consultation, at whatever level of involvement they wish. This will be a consultation for, and by, the community

Key stages

Ø  Awareness-raising and promotion

Ø  Gathering views and collating ideas

Ø  Prioritisation, discussion and debate

Ø  Identifying preferred options

Ø  Agreeing next steps

 

AWARENESS RAISING AND PROMOTION

1.     Awareness raising and promotion; feedback on proposed process (approx. 2 weeks)

Outlining the purpose of the community consultation and engagement process. Reiterating the issues and the timescale on decision making outlined by the CoS. Explaining the community consultation process and the ways in which folk can get involved. Inviting feedback on the consultation process and schedule. Inviting views and preferences on use of the church building, church house and Glebe. Tools:

a.     Facebook posts

b.     Posters – noticeboards, ferries etc

c.     Letter to every household?

d.     Emails to circulation lists

e.     One-to-one conversations with older / less active people – engage carers to help?

f.      Feedback on plan and schedule

g.     Invitation to volunteer to help deliver the process

 

GATHERING VIEWS AND COLLATING IDEAS

2.     Qualitative – gathering views and collating ideas (approx. 4 weeks)

A set of questions to islanders that explore their thoughts, hopes and concerns about the church; its role in the fabric of the island and its place in the community. Asking respondents for their views and preferences on the future purpose and uses of the church buildings and land. Inviting comment on key parameters they think are essential to their reaching a decision on their preferred option (what do they need to know before they make a final decision, i.e. a final consensus or vote?).  

a.     Questionnaires sent to every house – return to box in shop; box on ferry or collection by arrangement

b.     Questionnaire on survey monkey

c.     Door to door canvassers – with set questions; seek assistance from carers for their clients

d.     Facebook questions

e.     Ideas box in shop

f.      Collation of responses and sharing of feedback from process – noticeboards, Facebook, circulation lists; feedback meeting if required

 

PRIORITISATION, DISCUSSION AND DEBATE

3.     Setting the scene – pre–event workshop/ meeting

Open meeting for anyone to attend; all volunteers should attend if possible; invites to island groups; widespread promotion – Facebook, email lists, notices on noticeboards and ferries.

The purpose of this session is to:

·       collate and start to explore the ideas that have been put forward to date

·       develop consensus on the wider principles e.g. continued worship; aspects of the building that can / can’t change etc (wider issues that need to be considered when assessing options)

·       merge ideas that are similar – collective exercise

·       gathering views on pros and cons of each idea (info gathering phase, in preparation for main consultation event)

·       initial prioritisation of ideas – used for evaluation and to test the water

·       developing a decision matrix to aid the ranking of ideas at the main consultation event

·       general preparation for the main consultation event. 

 

Approach: 

a.     Ideas wall – presentation of ideas gathered so far and opportunity to add more ideas: 

List of ideas gathered to date (via questionnaires etc) put up on wall with further blank sheets for people to add new ideas (use post it notes if necessary)

b.     Presentation on outputs from info / view gathering phase

c.     Whole group discussion on basic principles, e.g.

                                         i.     Continued use as place of worship?

                                       ii.     Should the building be used flexibly?

                                      iii.     What is the degree of change to the structure that would be acceptable (assuming allowed by planning) e.g. should pews be removed? All or some of the pews? Alter pews to be able to move them?

                                      iv.     Feedback and summary of discussion

d.     Collation of ideas – similar ideas grouped (exercise done collectively, either as a whole group of everyone present or split in two if more participants)

e.     Pros and cons of each idea – open activity, ideas table where participants can leave comments on each idea – issues, constraints, opportunities, risks

f.      Quick–fire prioritisation – everyone given three stickers to use to identify their top three options, listed on notices placed around the room. The purpose of this exercise is to do a quick evaluation of people’s thinking and to identify possible preferred options – to test the water. This will be recorded but won’t be the final outcome. It will be used for comparison with the outputs from the next phase (consultation event). Alternative approach – a show of hands for each option. Or putting counters in jars.

g.     Planning for decision–making. Explaining the next stages of the process and agreeing parameters for prioritising ideas / options. During the full consultation event (item 4) groups of participants will be asked to evaluate different options (discuss pros and cons of each idea then rank them) and to help them do this they will be shown how to use decision matrices (this is just a tool to help people evaluate options). In preparation for this event, this planning exercise will identify a list of basic parameters, against which to assess the options. These parameters will be presented in a matrix and are intended as a tool, they won’t be mandatory. Either done as a whole group or split into two groups.

h.     Feedback from the workshop – verbal summary of outputs / outcomes and use of feedback form

i.       Preparation for consultation event – inviting volunteers, agreeing roles and responsibilities etc.

j.       Circulation of outputs / outcomes from event and promotion of consultation event – Facebook, website, emails, notices on ferries and noticeboards, flyer to houses, face to face updates

3.     Consultation event

The purpose of this event is to try to reach consensus on a preferred use for the church buildings / facilities or alternatively, to identify the most popular two or three options, for later ballot.

Approach:

a.     List of ideas collated to date (grouped) - presented on wall

b.     Outputs from previous information / views gathering exercise and workshop event presented as posters

c.     Community café style event

                                         i.     Tables set around room with one or two ideas/ grouped ideas per table

                                       ii.     Facilitator and a scribe at each table

                                      iii.     Split into groups – one group per table

                                      iv.     As a group, discuss the 1 or 2 ideas presented at that table; 

·       Discuss pros and cons

·       Rank the ideas – prioritise (using agreed parameters / decision matrix where this helps) then move to next table and next group of ideas

                                       v.     Keep moving round room so everyone has discussed each idea

                                      vi.     When people arrive they are given a letter and each time they move round the room they will be directed to a new table so the mix of people changes each time and eventually, everyone talks to everyone else 

                                     vii.     Responses and outcomes recorded by scribes

d.     Approach is flexible so with fewer participants, either split into smaller groups or smaller number of groups and discuss more ideas each time

e.     Collation of outcomes – either during tea break or at end of event (depends on timing and number of ideas that came out of stages two and three)

f.      Feedback on collated outcomes – might be done as separate event (depends on timing)
 

IDENTIFYING PREFERRED OPTIONS

4.     Final prioritisation, reporting and feedback 

Prioritisation (advisory) exercise on top 3 ideas  – either held at end of event or in a follow-on event. Final prioritisation workshop and / or vote with chips handed out to each attendee. Format will depend on outputs / outcome from previous stages.

Alternatively – questionnaire to each household and / or survey monkey.

Report back to community – newsletter.

AGREEING NEXT STEPS

This could be done at the end of the consultation event or in a separate meeting, depending on timing. For example:

5.     If there is a clear preference this can go to a ballot later on, ahead of final community decision on church project (see 7)

6.     If no clear preference then newsletter and questionnaire circulated with top 3 preferences, followed by ballot – or just straight to ballot on top two or three

7.     Final ballot on whether community wish to take on building can include a vote on purpose / use of building

Draft Schedule

 

Stage

Time period

Start

End

Initial planning / preparation; circulation of consultation/ engagement plan

Awareness raising and promotion; feedback on proposed process

1 /2 weeks

End Oct

2nd week Nov

Qualitative – gathering views and collating ideas – circulation/submission of questionnaire etc

3 weeks

2nd week Nov

1st week Dec

Interim report - presentation of outputs from gathering/collation exercise (noticeboards/ Facebook)

 

 

1st week Dec 

Setting the scene – pre–event workshop/ meeting

 

3 – 4 hours

 

End Jan

Report / feedback from workshop

 

 

1st week Feb

Planning and preparation for consultation event

1 week

 

1st week Feb

Consultation event

(prioritisation may be done in a separate event)

 

 

 

Mid Feb

Final prioritisation, reporting and feedback 

 

 

 

3rd week Feb

Next steps – to be decided, depending on outcomes

 

 

 

 

To do:

1.     Draft awareness -raising materials

2.     Draft questionnaire / set of questions

3.     Prepare communication plan

4.     Prepare action plan with detail on dates, timescales, lead, milestones etc

5.     Detailed planning for workshop

6.     Detailed planning for consultation event

7.     Design feedback format for each key stage

8.     Organise prioritisation process