Putting property on mission: The Urban Renewal Pilot Program

Churches are always looking for new ways to engage the local community around them. Why? Because Paul in Acts 20:24 tells us that our only aim is “to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me [us] – the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”

It is our mission as Christians to share the good news with all who we come across, whether that is in word or deed. In doing this, we are familiar with the idea of putting our people on mission. But have you ever considered how you could put your property on mission?

Sydney Anglican Property (SAP) in partnership with like-minded organisations such as Sustainable Development Group (SDG), Traders in Purple, Casa Capace, and others, is getting on with precisely this. We want to see churches empowered and enabled to use their property to serve their local community in very practical ways, while also enhancing their ministry facilities for the good of the parish and its future generations.

What is the Urban Renewal Pilot Program?

“We receive a lot of feedback about the work SAP is involved in to purchase land in greenfields and construct new churches in these locations,” said SAP CEO Ross Jones. “It seems like a well-kept secret that the majority of our projects are focussed on assisting existing parishes upgrade their ministry facilities to better support their ministry and evangelism plans.”

Our main vehicle to deliver these outcomes is the Urban Renewal Pilot Program (URPP), which has six key goals – to:

  1. Accelerate development on existing church sites to materialise ministry/evangelism plans into built form.
  2. Provide high quality master planning, a feasible funding strategy and seed funding to enable parishes to complete the Development Application (DA) process.
  3. Arrange long-term leases for integrated social infrastructure development, when a funding partner is needed and/or when these developments support ministry.
  4. Provide a parish with new ministry/evangelism infrastructure, retain ownership of land (as far as is practical), generate an ongoing income source to finance debt and then generate an ongoing income stream shared between parish and wider Diocese when debt has been serviced.
  5. Enhance ministry/evangelism facilities and cause interfaces or “accidental collisions” with the non-church community.
  6. Create a sustainable funding source for new churches and existing churches for utilisation by the next generation of Christians.

As Mr Jones points out, the URPP capitalises on the very essence of the Anglican model of church – that is, that we are present in every community. And, of course, Anglican churches are often located right in the heart of suburbs and towns that have built up over generations.

“This means that church properties can be some of the best candidates to deliver the types of social infrastructure our cities are crying out for.

“That could be affordable housing, specialist disability accommodation, or child care facilities for example. Really any way that we can effectively love and serve the local communities we’re a part of.

“When combined with upgraded ministry facilities and funding for ongoing ministry work within the parish, these projects represent a real win-win, activating the wonderful assets that have been provided to us by God through previous generations of Christians.”

Where are things at now?

The current state of play is very exciting. 

The URPP has already built up a suite of projects in a variety of communities, all of which aim to meet a clear need in their local area while at the same time delivering new ministry facilities for the parish, and/or provide an ongoing income stream to fund ministry work for years to come. In fact, such is the potential benefit to parishes, one participating parish even has plans to put on an assistant minister for the first time in their history!

As of right now…

  • 18 agreements have been signed between parishes and SAP right across Sydney and the Illawarra
  • 4 Development Applications (DA) have been approved, with a further 3 awaiting approval for churches in Western Sydney, Southern Sydney and the Northern Beaches
  • Bids have been lodged for 11 projects under the first round of the Federal Government’s $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund Facility (HAFFF). These projects have the potential to deliver more than 900 affordable rental dwellings and 8,500 sqm of ministry space. 

A great example of the URPP in action is the Beacon Hill Specialist Disability Accommodation facility, which was officially opened by Archbishop Kanishka Raffel on Thursday 28 March. Located on the site of the former Holy Trinity Anglican Church, this facility will deliver much-needed, high quality accommodation for some of the community’s most vulnerable members, while also creating an ongoing income stream that will enhance ministry at the parish’s primary site at Frenchs Forest.

Meanwhile, a Planning Proposal for the St Alban’s Anglican Church site at Five Dock has been lodged with council to change zoning restrictions to unlock the potential of the site. The proposal has the scope to deliver crucial housing supply, including affordable housing, in a location adjacent to the planned Five Dock metro station. Plans developed in partnership with SDG and Traders in Purple also include retail, commercial, community and child-care facilities, a public piazza and, most importantly, upgrades to the parish’s ministry buildings.

SAP is also partnering with Traders in Purple on Sydney’s lower North Shore to deliver fantastic new ministry facilities, including a 400-seat auditorium (which will also be available to the community) and minister’s residence, as well as new residential and retail offerings on the site of St Andrew’s Anglican Church in the heart of Lane Cove (part of LCM Churches).

Finally, St Mark’s at Sadleir will soon become the site of a new childcare centre thanks to a partnership with Christian provider Integricare. SAP and Integricare were the recent recipients of a $2.3m State Government grant for the project. The new facility will provide a much-needed service to the community in this part of Sydney. The parish is keen to maximise the ministry opportunity that can occur when parishioners are actively involved with childcare facilities as their mission focus. They will also be able to make use of the facilities for ministry and outreach purposes on weekday evenings and on weekends. Without the URPP, the parish would not otherwise have been able to fund the necessary planning, architectural and operational inputs required for a funding application of this scale. The successful application, developed in collaboration between SAP, SDG, Integricare and the parish itself, is a great example of the innovative thinking that is coming out of the URPP program.

Mr Jones points out that these projects are just the beginning of what could be a transformative program for the Diocese.

“The key for our parishes, no matter how big or where they’re located, is to tap into the clear needs of the communities they are part of and think about how land owned by the church could service needs in that community,” Mr Jones said.

“However, these are just buildings unless they support ministry and evangelism, founded in prayer, and activated by faithful parishioners sharing Jesus with the people we care for in these communities.

“That’s how we can most effectively put our property assets on mission!”

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