Photo above – Parish representatives from all over Dublin & Glendalough came to hear about Open Church.
As part of Dublin & Glendalough’s commemorations of the 150th anniversary of the Disestablishment of the Church of Ireland, it is hoped that every Church of Ireland church in the United Dioceses will be open on Culture Night 2020. Over 70 people gathered in Christ Church Cathedral’s Music Room on Friday morning last (February 7) to get tips on what is involved.
Culture Night 2020 takes place on Friday September 18 from 5pm to 11pm. The night is aimed at all ages and provides a unique opportunity for people to make new discoveries in their area. It also provides a unique opportunity for parishes to welcome people who may not normally come through the doors to explore their local churches. Those taking part are encouraged to create a programme specifically for Culture Night, although the programmes need not be elaborate or expensive.
The information morning was organised by the Dublin & Glendalough Disestablishment 150 Committee. Chairman, Canon Roy Byrne, urged all parishes to consider opening their churches on Culture Night to welcome friend and stranger alike. “Many churches are open for services on Sundays but remain locked for the rest of the week,” he commented. “This is a great opportunity to invite others in. This is about opening our churches in a very easy way and welcoming in the community. Some churches already do this but we would like every single church in Dublin & Glendalough to be open as our contribution to commemorating Disestablishment. Every church building has something of interest to the wider community. Open the doors for Culture Night and let the people come in.”
Christ Church Cathedral’s Education Officer, Ruth Kenny, said the Disestablishment commemorative events had been enthusiastically received so far. Under the banner ‘Free to shape our future’, which is taken from the architects of Disestablishment 150 years ago, the focus of the events is on celebrating what has happened since Disestablishment and on the future of the church, she said. She added that opening churches in Dublin & Glendalough on Culture Night will widen the diocesan reach of Disestablishment commemorations.
Education Officer in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Andrew Smith, encouraged parishes to sit down and think about their churches’ assets, their budget and what is achievable. The programme does not have to cost a lot and can be as straight forward as a tour of the church. “The broad concept, from our point of view, is ‘Open Church’. We are going to endeavour to get every single church open for Culture Night,” he explained. “In the city centre, Culture Night attracts a huge audience of transitory people and there are a huge variety of competing events. Churches in the suburbs and in rural areas can market their opening as an opportunity to get away from the busyness of the city centre and can pick up a different demographic. Where ever you are a warm welcome is essential and if there is an element of hospitality, all the better.”
Canon Byrne gave the experience of his own parish in Monkstown. They started opening for Culture Night three years ago. “We turn on the heat, provide tea and coffee and there are quizzes for children. We have information on the history of the monuments and architectural features in the church. We have organists playing and in our first year we were singing hymns and taking hymn requests at 11 o’clock at night! You can do what you like, within reason, and have fun with it. It’s about getting the doors open and letting people see what we’re about, inviting them to step over the threshold,” he said. He also mentioned that Culture Night engagement does not have to involve any real financial outlay, interested parishioners supervise the building, people donate the refreshments, our organists give their services without cost and we have a basket for donations towards the cost of heat and light on the night. Our emphasis is on ‘fun’ and Culture Night has become one of our highlights of the year.
Marketing and Events Officer at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Clarissa Delap, said that Culture Night is part of the ministry of welcome and is a way of communicating the parish’s values. She said there were three things for parishes to consider: The type of event you want to run to attract the largest audience possible; How you plan to track your audience; How you keep in touch with people after the event? “Think about Culture Night as an opportunity to build relationships with people,” she said.
Registration for Culture Night takes place online in May at http://www.culturenight.ie/get-involved/. Participants must provide a brief (150 word) description of their event. The D150 committee will provide a template for any parishes who want to use it and will provide support through the process.
Parishes were also encouraged to take part in Heritage Week which runs from August 15 to 23. Registrations open in mid–May at http://www.heritageweek.ie/register-an-event/. Heritage Week generally features set piece events such as a talk, performance or tour.
The D&G Disestablishment 150 Committee will keep parishes up to date with registration deadlines, templates for registration and press releases to help with publicity. If you want to register your parish to receive these updates please email Caoimhe Leppard at Caoimhe.Leppard@rcbdub.org
You can find out more about Disestablishment at: www.dublin.anglican.org/about-us/disestablishment-150