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Major parish construction projects: reflection and tips

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“It’s important for churches to be discerning with their resources, including their properties. We discerned that in order to be good stewards and to ensure ministry sustainability that we needed to focus our mission where God is active…So we felt led to keep the Maroochydore property, and only sold the Mooloolaba property, investing the proceeds into our Maroochydore site redevelopment,” says The Rev’d Tania Eichler

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Our parish’s redevelopment started 33 years ago. On 9 February 2023 it will be exactly 33 years since the original St Peter’s, Maroochydore hall burnt down in an electrical fire. Parishioners arrived for church the following morning to find the hall they had built with their own hands in ashes.

Hall number two rose from these ashes in 1992. Because finances were limited and we were planning for a forthcoming whole-site redevelopment, we were only able to erect a removable building. The temporary building could not contain toilets, so we made do with demountable toilets for 30 years, which meant many a dash in the rain.

The very helpful ACSQ Property Team, especially Laurel George and Hiro Kawamata, presented us with several different re-development and selling options. As part of our discernment process and in ongoing conversation with the Property team, we initially considered selling both the Maroochydore and Mooloolaba parish sites and purchasing a new site centrally located between the two Sunshine Coast suburbs.

It’s important for churches to be discerning with their resources, including their properties. We discerned that in order to be good stewards and to ensure ministry sustainability that we needed to focus our mission where God is active. The Maroochydore site, which is in the heart of the local CBD, is both visible and accessible to the community. There is also much need nearby, with many people sleeping rough requiring regular TLC, and increasing numbers of retirees and young families moving close by as residential developments spring up around us.

So we felt led to retain the Maroochydore property and to sell the Mooloolaba site. The sale proceeds went into a property trust immediately to accumulate interest for the future build, which was completed about 15 years after the sale. If we had held onto the Mooloolaba property, our missional effectiveness would have been diminished.

New hall of The Parish of Maroochydore

Parish of Maroochydore community members enjoying their new hall at a site redevelopment blessing event in November 2022, with Bishop Jeremy on the far right

If you are doing a site development, it’s vital to look to the future where you believe God is calling you. As we prayed through the discernment process, we thought and prayed ahead into the future and what we would need. So we considered how we could redevelop the site for God and God’s people, including for families and our growing outreach care ministry (we are currently applying for DGR status with the assistance of the highly experienced Teresa Day from the General Manager’s Office).

Throughout the whole re-development process we have been focused on the question, “How can we bring glory to God in this site redevelopment?” Our prayer led us to focus on future needs and where the energy and activity are happening so we can organically join in. Through our Parish Ministry Council (what we call our parish council), we developed this “St Peter’s Vision Prayer”:

“Almighty God, we give thanks for all the blessings you have given this parish over more than 100 years and for all who have worshipped and served you in this place. Living God, we read in your word how you led your servants of old to build places of worship to lift your praises and proclaim your faithfulness. We believe the vision we have before us for the redevelopment of this site is from you. We know that in our own strength and with our own resources we are not able to bring this vision to reality. We come to you, humbly relying on you completely for the fulfillment of this plan, knowing it will be to your honour and for the purposes to which you have called us for the growing of your Kingdom. Help us to work together in love and unity, in total obedience to your guidance and with total trust in you. Through Jesus Christ, our cornerstone upon which we build. Amen.”

We are thrilled with our new re-development, which was blessed and re-dedicated by Bishop Jeremy Greaves in late November.

The Parish of Maroochydore's site was blessed and re-dedicated by Bishop Jeremy Greaves

The Parish of Maroochydore’s site was blessed and re-dedicated by Bishop Jeremy Greaves in late November 2002. He is pictured with The Rev’d Tania Eichler and the site redevelopment team

The site redevelopment consists of a new hall, with toilets inside that we consider to be a luxury; a semi-commercial kitchen; compliant amenities for people living with disability and their carers; storage on the ground floor; parish offices; and, meeting and conference spaces.

Part of the redevelopment was to change the church interior so that the congregation faces the beautiful stained-glass windows. The large doors were kept as part of our heritage building and are now a feature beneath the windows. The previous sanctuary area is now a bright and sunny children’s section where children can be part of the service, but not in a restricted area. A vestry and flower room is conveniently located in the opposite side of the church from the entry foyer.

There is a new covered concrete concourse between the church and the hall with a ramp, steps and gardens. This has created a lovely streetscape, as the hall and church building are now connected. We hold activities on the concourse, bringing life and beauty to the space. The covered concourse is very helpful when we have “overflow” – weather-proof speakers have been installed so people worshipping and serving on the concourse are engaged.

The concourse connects to the new 23-space car park, which is concreted and lined (our previous carpark was unsealed and unlined).

There is still work to be done on the Church Street side of the building to match the re-developed side when finances permit. Our Project Extras Fund is for this purpose and for other future developments of our site.

The Parish of Maroochydore's site redevelopment

The Parish of Maroochydore’s site redevelopment includes a new hall; a semi-commercial kitchen; compliant amenities for people living with disability and their carers; storage on the ground floor; parish offices; and, meeting and conference spaces

We benefitted in our collaboration with the wider community during the redevelopment. We had thought we would be able to continue to use the church for Sunday services and during the week for much of the construction. This proved to be unrealistic due to the major reconstruction of the hall side of the church building and the addition of our lovely new foyer.

Gregson & Weight Funeral Directors approached us of their own volition, offering us the use of their crematorium chapel and morning tea room for our Sunday services, which we used for approximately eight months. Stella Maris Catholic Parish and St Vincent’s Care (which are across the road from our site) let us use their church building for Wednesday services, a room for Mainly Music on Mondays, and extra meeting rooms for our pastoral care meetings and the Wednesday home group. The Salvation Army gave us a room to use for Tuesday’s Mainly Music sessions. Home groups and intercessory prayer groups were held in parishioners’ homes. All this was an amazing blessing, and we are extremely grateful.

Special thanks should also go to Michael Michell of MAJP Investments, an independent local consultant who generously gave of his time and expertise to guide the project and project manage the construction.

We want to continue to grow in our relationship with surrounding agencies and businesses, allowing them to use our new spaces for conferences and events.

Top 10 tips for major parish construction projects:

  1. Pray – prayer needs to be central at all times, whether in supplication or giving thanks.
  2. Be discerning – seek to be good stewards of your resources and ask yourselves “Where is the activity happening so we can best join in?”
  3. Keep in contact as you collaborate with the ACSQ Property Team – ask questions along the way, be transparent at all times, listen to their advice because they know what they’re doing and stay on top of necessary processes to maintain momentum.
  4. Form working groups – based on people’s skill sets and time, specific working groups were formed from within the wider redevelopment committee.
  5. Keep your parish community informed – we took photos weekly of the different stages of the development (including of meetings and construction milestones) so people could see the progress, know what was happening and pray for the project.
  6. Adjust and pivot as needed, involving people in solutions – for example, the redevelopment committee were involved in decisions about the constantly changing space for our weekly community meal.
  7. Reach out to the wider community – for example to ecumenical friends and local businesses for help.
  8. Always have a plan – have a big-picture plan and plans for transition points in the broader strategy.
  9. Put first things first – create a list of priorities for each stage.
  10. Support, mentor and encourage your leaders – I undertook professional supervision for my support and in turn provided support, mentoring and encouragement to lay leaders who worked on the redevelopment.

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