Report from the “Sharing Space” Group

DSC_6272Report from the “Sharing Space” Group

Our group met for six weeks. Our mandate was not to find all the answers about how to share our new space but to come out of this process with some concrete guidelines that would allow us to share our space in the immediate future. These principles are based on two important points that we came up with early in our discussion:

  • It is important to take our time and make wise decisions that we won’t regret down the road. There are a number of helpful websites that advise church communities to take adequate time to reflect on how best to share their space.
  • It is important that our building be a “safe space” for whoever uses it. We have to remember that we will be associated with the activities that take place in our space.

Guiding Principles:   

  • We are grateful to have space to share in the service of God’s mission in the world. We share space always recalling that we are God’s field. “We are coworkers with God; you are God’s field, God’s building.” (1 Cor. 3:9)
  • We strive to provide a space that is emotionally and spiritually safe for those who gather. This is in accord with the statement found each Sunday in our bulletin: The United Church of Canada and the Sackville Pastoral Charge strive to be a safe place for all people to worship regardless of race, creed, age, cultural background, sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • We strive to create a physically safe space for those who gather.
  • We practice due diligence in terms of insurance, liability and maintenance of the security of the space and contents with which we are entrusted.
  • Priority will be given to the gathering and nurture of our faith community and preferential use will be for gatherings relating to worship, spirit, justice, compassion and education.
  • We consider the principles/social policy of the United Church of Canada in areas such as gambling and consumption of alcohol.Factors to Consider:

After our first few meetings we realized what a huge task it is to figure out how to share our new space. Here are some of the factors we have been considering:

  • Balancing the needs of our church community with requests from people outside of our church community.
  • The desire to share our new space generously and widely… and the possibility of renting the space as a source of income.
  • Wanting to be flexible versus wanting to have specific policies in place that guide our space-sharing.
  • Liability and insurance issues
  • Human resources: should a church member be present while the space is being used by another group? Who will process requests and take care of scheduling? Who will do the maintenance, upkeep, and cleaning?
  • Rental may have impact on our charitable tax status
  • On touring the space, we believe only two primary areas that could be shared without incurring further cost (Do we extend human and financial resources to make that space usable?)

Considering these factors, and abiding by the Guiding Principles in this report, we think that logical first steps would be:

To explore the possibility of sharing/renting our space to groups in which our church members are involved. For instance, Gary inquired about using the church building to teach a class to the Sackville Senior’s College. Our church activities will be prioritized (services, choir practices, etc. – see the church Google calendar), but we can begin to share our space by asking the congregation to suggest groups that might use it, starting in January or February 2015.

To initially limit our space-sharing to community activities (group meetings, classes) or worship/meditation meetings that do not require much set-up or management in terms of the space. We need more time to reflect on the eventual possibilities of renting our space for more elaborate, high-maintenance events, such as weddings, parties, dance classes, etc.

If we keep working on this basis in the winter and spring of 2015, it could be possible to have more permanent and comprehensive guidelines in place for September, 2015.

Recommendations:

A written Shared Space policy be developed that clearly incorporates and defines:

  • the guiding principles developed by the Shared Space group, as may be amended, that will shape our decisions with respect to the use of our space
  • the spaces available for use and the user priority, if any, attached to each
  • the process by which requests are made to use the space, including a means for the user to identify any expectations (set-up, resource requirements)
  • the process by which decisions are made in response to requests to use the space
  • the expectations of those users who use our space (cost structure, cleaning, etc.)

A clear understanding be developed by the Treasurer of the tax issues relating to any rental/cost-sharing arrangements associated with the use of our space. The United Church Financial Handbook for Congregations is a valuable source of information in this regard.

The costs (heat, lights, maintenance, etc.) associated with using our space be identified by the Treasurer.

The issues and requirements associated with both insurance and liability relating to usage of the space be addressed in writing by the Trustees. The United Church Trustees Handbook (sections 47 to 56) provides general direction in this regard.A process for reviewing and maintaining the physical security and safety of our space be created and implemented by the Property Committee.

That the facilities use calendar that has been recently developed be maintained.

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