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Open House: welcoming the community into your church


St Mary’s, Kangaroo Point recently held their eighth Brisbane Open House –parishioner Ernie Hertle tells us how to run a successful Open House event as a welcoming community engagement initiative

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St Mary’s recently held their eighth Brisbane Open House event on Sunday 13 October, giving our parish the opportunity to show the broader community our ‘hidden treasure on the hill’.

During the Open House events parish volunteers have the opportunity to meet members of the broader community who visit, and experience first-hand how the beauty of the church is appreciated by visitors. The Brisbane Open House event also gives visitors and new church members an opportunity to learn more about and appreciate the church’s architecture, including the stained-glass windows, and the church’s history and cultural fabric.

Brisbane Open House guests have varying reasons for visiting St Mary’s. Many visitors have an interest in seeing buildings unfamiliar to them and they do appreciate the architecture and beauty of the church and precinct. Other visitors are interested in finding a wedding venue or a potential worship centre or merely wish to visit the church where their parents or friends worshipped in the past. As such, the Brisbane Open House event provides a valuable opportunity for church growth.

The annual BOH book provides information on all the buildings and places involved in the BOH event. More details are provided for each specific building included in the BOH program via their website or social media channels. Individual sites may include additional events planned for the Open House, such as specific historical presentations and musical events. This year at St Mary’s Open House, a historical talk was presented by parishioner John Earwaker on Dr Lilian Cooper (the first female doctor in Queensland) and her lifelong companion Miss Josephine Bedford, both of who were devoted St Mary’s parishioners in their day. Later in the afternoon a piano recital was given by Roger Cui, an international pianist, who is furthering his qualifications at the Queensland Conservatorium.

Importantly, St Mary’s volunteers warmly welcomed each Open House visitor, explained the procedure for the self-guided tour and provided the St Mary’s Tour Guide. Refreshments were also be provided after the presentations, allowing a time for fellowship.

Pat Comben, Judy Noble, John Earwaker and Libby Earwaker at the talk given by John Earwaker on ‘Miss Bedford and Dr Lilian Cooper – parishioners at St Mary’s’ during Brisbane Open House at St Mary’s on Sunday 13 October

Ten tips on how to run a successful Open House, or similar, event as a community engagement opportunity

  1. Use different communication channels to promote your Open House events, such as your website, flyers and social media platforms.
  2. Invite your parishioners to participate and contribute their unique skill sets (such as social media know-how, event planning skills, public speaking expertise, musical talents, and ability to welcome).
  3. Architectural heritage is a key factor for BOH, and so we promote this detail in our print and digital event promotions.
  4. Use the Open House to promote ongoing programs, such as an ongoing music program (for example, this year we conducted a musical event during Open House).
  5. Leverage the unique beauty of your church (such as your stained-glass windows and your grounds).
  6. Feature your church’s unique legacies (for example, the Navy has been involved with our church from early days and accordingly we promoted our Navy association).
  7. Highlight prominent people involved your church’s history (for example, this year we highlighted the contributions of Dr Lilian Cooper and Miss Josephine Bedford in a public lecture, as well as that of Canon David Garland and Chaplain Maitland-Woods).
  8. Promote your church services and your congregation’s activities and initiatives.
  9. Find out about your visitors – often visitors tell us something we don’t know (for example, this year we used a questionnaire to enquire how our visitors found out about St Mary’s).
  10. Ensure all volunteers are clearly badged, are welcoming, have some knowledge of the building, and know whom to ask for further information.

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