On 14 February 2021, Valentine’s Day, we had a Future Directions meeting in the Lounge, considering how we as a Parish could proceed. Later that night an alarm was sent to our phones, telling us that we would immediately go back to Level 3. We had our meeting just in time, even though it meant some may have missed out on romantic dinners.
Part of the overall vision from the meeting was to develop the hall into a community hub, a mingling place for people, where we could address some community needs. It would be a place of welcome. Along with that was an emphasis to continue to make the grounds and church a place for reflection and refreshing the soul.
We came up with some ideas on how to identify community needs, such as understanding what is already being done by other churches and groups, talking to community groups, the Community Board and Council. It fell upon me to do some of the research and to talk to the various entities. The response from nearly all organisations was that the best thing to do for St Paul’s would be to partner with the Papanui Youth Development Trust, as it is having a significant positive impact in the community. Some churches were “jealous” about having such an organisation on site. The Council stressed that whatever we do we should not inhibit the work of the Youth Centre, but rather look at supporting it.
As a result of those conversations and with the support of the wardens then, I spoke with members of the Te Papanui Trust (TPT), the property trust of the youth centre, to possibly get them involved in any new development of the hall complex. The trustees responded enthusiastically and made me a trustee, too. They suggested that in some shape and form they could take over more of the management and maintenance for the hall complex, raising funds for the necessary construction work to make it a welcoming community facility. It was assumed that the church would retain ownership of the land and would continue to have a presence in the building (possibly a long-term lease may be a good option). With the approval of Vestry, TPT has engaged the architecture firm Warren & Mahoney, which has provided a first draft to improve the current complex to a more open facility. Vestry will have to give feedback on that. If we go down the road of partnering with TPT, the Parish will lose some control. But I hope that we could meet more community needs and ensure long-term availability of the hall for the Church and the community.