THAILAND – Monks taught to handle national religious heritage

BANGKOK, 22 December 2014 (NNT) – The Fine Arts Department have educated Buddhist monks in Bangkok and the vicinities about how to take care of national heritage in Buddhist temples. 

Director of the Office of Archaeology under the Fine Arts Department Thraphong Sricuchart said educating the Buddhist monks about cultural and art properties was part the office’s project to conserve Thailand’s heritage, especially paintings and sculptures. It was necessary for the monks to know to handle their temple’s invaluable properties which were the sources of local culture and wisdom, said the director. 

40 monks participated in the project which took place at Wat Suwannaram Ratchawihan in Bangkok. Mr Thraphong added the office also encouraged the general public to help conserve national heritage with Buddhist temples.

- See more here.


WORLD – 2016 World Monuments Watch – Call for nomitations

In communities around the world, the World Monuments Watch promotes local action for heritage sites.

2016 World Monuments Watch nominations are now being accepted. Deadline for nominations is March 1, 2015.

 Every two years, World Monuments Fund (WMF) accepts new nominations to the World Monuments Watch. The World Monuments Watch calls international attention to cultural heritage around the world that is at risk from the forces of nature and the impact of social, political, and economic change. From archaeological sites to iconic architecture, cultural landscapes to historic urban centers, the Watch identifies places of significance in need of timely action.

Read more here about nominating a site.

More information about the 2016 World Monuments Watch can be found

Questions about the nomination process should be directed

ESTONIA – CFP: Old Religion and New Spirituality: continuity and changes in the background of secularization

The University of Tartu (Estonia) is organizing a very interesting conference on “Old Religion and New Spirituality: Continuity and changes in the background of secularization”.

Read the Call for Papers here.

University of Tartu, Estonia, 26-29 May 2015

Estonia is an extremely secularized European country, characterized by the diminishing institutionalization of religion (de-institutionalization) and the decline of the Christian practices and beliefs (de-Christianization). In order to investigate the historical roots of the situation and clarify the characteristics of the current picture, the research project about religiosity in Estonia was started in 2011. The staff of the project welcomes the researchers dealing with the religious situation in various regions and countries of Europe in order to make comparisons of certain features of the changing religious landscape. Papers that address contemporary developments or provide a historical perspective will be accepted.


Particularly interesting aspects may include:

- historical process of secularization, its specific features in different countries;

- combinations of religion and nationalism, effects of nationalism on public religion;

- changes in the traditional religious groups and churches in 21st century;

- atheism and nonreligion, their organized and individual manifestations;

- new spirituality, “New Age” and individual religiousness, mixed forms of organized and individual



Invited speakers include: Stephen Bullivant (St Mary’s University, Twickenham), Abby Day (University of Kent), Paul Heelas (Erasmus University Rotterdam), Detlef Pollack (University of Münster).

UK – Managing Major Building Projects in Places of Worship Training Day – 26 Feb 2015


Training on Management Major Building Projects in Places of Worship taking place on  26th February 2015 in London.

‘Contraints and obstacles to overcome and the road littered with discarded drawings, seemingly insoluble problems, frustrations beyond measure and how many meetings?  Olive Sutcliffe, Churchwarden. (taken from a record and memento celebrating the opening of St Agatha’s, Brightwell-cum-Sotwell’s church room in 2012)

This is the 4th such training day organised by the Historic Religious Buildings Alliance in partnership and with financial support from PurcellUK. The day deals with the management of all stages of a building project in a place of worship, from start up through to making sure benefits are achieved over the long term. Presentations  include  ‘developing your vision’, ‘engaging with the wider community’, ‘fund-raising’, ‘working with your architect and managing works once on site’ . There will also be a session from the Heritage Lottery Fund as well as lunch-time surgeries where individuals cases can be discussed. Anyone involved in such an undertaking, of whatever size, will find it invaluable.

A flyer and a booking form can be downloaded from the Historic Religious Buildings Alliance website here. You can also book directly online from the PurcellUk website here.

A fifth training day is being organised to take place in Sheffield in the last week in June 2015. Date to be confirmed.

SCOTLAND – ‘Scots Jews’ photo exhibition

A photography exhibition created by Michael Mail on contemporary Scottish Jewish life is currently touring Scotland under the title ‘Tartan Arts’ .

 The Scottish Jewish community dates back to the 1700s and has contributed significantly to Scotland, yet not a lot is known about it.  The exhibition seeks to redress this, with images from across the country reflecting a diverse Jewish community maintaining its traditions while fully embracing Scottish life.  The exhibition was launched at the Scottish Parliament in February 2014 in the presence of First Minister Alex Salmond, and is now touring Scotland, while a parallel exhibition tours internationally.  The exhibition is currently at the Aberdeen Central Library until the end of December and it will then move to the Street Level Gallery in Glasgow from February.   

 The leading publishers Bloomsbury has produced a fine art book of photographs to accompany the exhibition, see here.

Piet de Boer – “A church for the churchless people”


Having been empty and deserted for many years, St. John’s Church has become one of Sweden’s most visited churches. Founded in 1866 as a church for the poor, since 1995 it is a community center for the homeless, addicts and mentally disabled people on the streets.

St. John’s Church has an interesting history, with which it is still associated, as “a church for the churchless people.” Our society has changed rapidly and in many ways over the past hundred and fifty years. In the time before and during which the church was built, we lived in an agricultural society where ninety percent of the population lived in the countryside. The church was the prevailing institution characterizing people’s daily lives. Based on faith and tradition, we created our values. Undivided villages and multi-generational families were the natural protection that existed. The daily quest for potatoes on the table, i.e. “Food”, was the most important. It was the area of infectious diseases, people died of small wounds, pneumonia and epidemics.

Today in the twenty-first century, we are going through a shift of the community. We are now moving into an IT-, service- or perhaps a knowledge society. Our current dominant institution is the individual. Our values ​​are about choice, freedom, personal development, individual adjustment. We need to be competent, trained individuals to be able to take care of our interests and make the daily choices that have an impact on our lives. Urbanization is increasing significantly worldwide. Many of us are new citizens in a city that we moved in to. We no longer live alone as nuclear families, rather we live in many different family structures, most of them in one-person households or extended families, etc., or as homeless; all of these forms require adaptation to new situations and often rapid changes. Our aim now is to find “meaning of existence”, to find a context, our identity, that “life sentence”. We long to find our identity, to understand why we are here and who we are. We are now entering the epoch of trust deficiency diseases, by which I mean the increase of all forms of compulsive behaviors, addictions, psychiatric conditions, mental disability, involuntary loneliness, crime, etc.

St John’s Church is a place for us who have experienced that trust deficiency or have felt that we do not fit into society. It is a place where people come together who would otherwise never meet. An eclectic and unusual mix of people. We meet in open conversation where we share our experiences of weakness and vulnerability as well as strength, and come together in groups, in worship and at cafe tables. People that in various ways have tried to find community in different churches or other places but felt that they did not fit into the template of how one should be or that they were not good enough. People who have lived their lives in a downward spiral that usually ends with prison, institution, or premature death. And with that realization, decided to find a new way to live. Seeking a more sustainable lifestyle in fellowship with others who are seeking a power greater than us to break the destructive behaviors and addictions.

St. John’s Church offers a safe community for those who seek such change. Through the trust and love we meet here, we are brave enough to take a leap into a new alien world where spiritual principles such as honesty and patience play a big role in leaving drugs and crime behind. To find a new way in which we dare to let go of our past and surrender ourselves to a process unknown to us, which we call recovery, an upward spiral that is sustainable, a lifestyle where things get better and better. A process we call empowerment.

St. John’s Church wants to be a healing place where reciprocity and participation are more important than control and governance. Here, participants and visitors, as well as employees are role models and good examples for each other rather than parent and child. Equality and human rights are more important than where we come from and what we’ve done in the past, a place where we can start over. Here is a place with cognitive processes for life-long learning.

St. John’s Church is an open space where you can cultivate trust, where you are allowed to be who you were meant to be, where you are allowed to be an individual and not stigmatized by flaws, shortcomings or disease. Here we are not classed as a group or a collective; we are not just addicts, homeless, mentally disabled or poor, etc. Each one is being judged only for his ability to change and find a sustainable lifestyle. We share our secrets in openness, in the light of which they get a new and less dramatic importance and we find new perspectives and ways to manage our lives.

From having been an empty and deserted church for many years, St. John’s Church has become one of Sweden’s most visited churches. It’s a place where thousands of people have made ​​the journey from fear to trust and from powerlessness to empowerment as an exciting life-long process. St John’s Church is a place where people get new lives.


Peter Wieselgren, dean in Gothenburg, had a passion for social justice. He realized what alcohol and poverty did to people. As a young man he wanted to get involved to make people have better living conditions. Wieselgren wrote at the age of nineteen the first known temperance pledges and he is known for his involvement in the temperance movement. But he was also upset and engaged by the fact that people came to the churches, but could not come in and walked away without hearing the words of God, because there were not churches enough for everyone to fit in. And people had to buy a bench in the church to get in. Therefore, the dean went out of the cathedral, and perched from a great tree, from where he preached to the masses, the churchless people.

When Peter Wieselgren celebrated his sixty years birthday, some rich people in town collected money by the initiative of merchant Oscar Ekman to build St. John’s Church where Peter Wieselgren would preach for the churchless. St. John’s Cathedral was completed as a “a church for the churchless” in 1866. At the opening on July 8, Peter Wisselgren held a sermon on the topic of Kings 8: 22-53 and ended his speech with the words: “May the sharp two-edged sword here go through many souls so that the Lord may have to create new people, who can promise and praise Him!” This has been done through the years and is still ongoing. Many have broken the old patterns and destructive behaviors. Thousands of people have come to believe in themselves, their environment, in God and created new lives and opportunities.

Recent history

City Mission in Gothenburg was launched on October 7, 1953 by Isaac Béen and Ebbe Hagard after a petition which drew the attention of the distress that existed in Gothenburg.

City Mission’s work with homeless, addicts and prostitution in the 70′s was much about consolation and easing troubles. We used buses redesigned into mobile cafes with counselors, social workers and deacons among the homeless, addicts and mentally disabled people on the streets troughout the ‘80s and ‘90s. It became increasingly clear that the old way of motivating and supporting active addicts on the streets became instead a way to enhance and enable the old way of life and habits.

We had long seen that people who had a program of recovery in the Twelve Steps were able to find a more sustainable way out of addiction and destructive life patterns. It was shown that such recovery exerted great attraction; those who got a better life exerted a positive influence on their old friends, and there was a reciprocal identification that was previously not as obvious in our work.

From 1985 to 1995, the church was almost empty. Since it was no parish church it mostly came to be empty and without activity, therefore it was out for sale.

The ideas of doing something good with this amazing building began to take shape. In August 1995, we were given access to the building and began to unscrew the pews to form room in a new and innovative way. There would be room for meetings and socializing and for community and security. It created a room for cafe tables and one for worship; there were breakout rooms for self-help groups. Other rooms and spaces were turned into offices and conference rooms. A small cooker was set in a corner of the kitchen where we cooked soup and coffee.

We reopened St. John’s Church February 21, 1996 as a “Church for the churchless”. It became a church for those who do not fit in with their families, church or community. Here we could breathe the same air. Here we were able to change and come back to life, community, family and society.

It was an immediate success; many have over the years found a home here, a springboard to a safer and more sustainable lifestyle. Many have found connection and identity, a meaning in life and connection to family, friends and community. They have found hope and faith in a power outside themselves, stronger than them self, a force many of our visitors choose to call God.

When we got access to the St. John’s Church, we were able to develop our work as a street church. We got a place to start from and we took the church out into the street and we took the street into the church. We wanted to be out on the streets to attend various popular events. We wanted to reach those who did not have ecclesiastical habit, and those who felt ‘without church’. People who had no roots or tradition within the church who longed and looked for something that could help them find direction and meaning in life. It was also a way for staff to work from a context in Christian values.

Piet de Boer works for Stadsmissionen.



ITALY – 100 selfies for Napoli’s 100 closed churches

Two young journalists in Naples have created a video to raise awareness of 100 closed or abandoned churches in Naples. They took selfies in front of each church, then located it on a map. By communicating in a humerous way about the topic, they made it newsworthy; it was picked up by Massimo Bray, Italy’s ex-Minister of Culture and Heritage and generating some 125.000 views.

The video was created by Luca Lavarone. See the video here.

BELGIUM – “Heritage Counts” International Conference 3-6 February


The 2015 Thematic Week of the Raymond Lemaire International Centre for Conservation,  deals with the economic, social, environmental and cultural impact of immovable heritage. The aim is to provide an international overview of discourse, strategies and case studies. Theoretical reflections and best practices will be dealt with according to thematic sessions in order to highlight potentialities, gained advantages and difficulties encountered in the different steps of measuring the impact of immovable heritage.

For more information on the Thematic Week and to register, see: 



USA – The McMass Project: A McDonald’s Church?

An American enterpreneur worried by the fact that many American churces are closing and falling into disrepair (ten thousand in 2013 alone) has launched a Crowdfunding project aimed to bring in a million dollars to start a McDonald’s franchise in a church. The McMass project is an attempt to make churches self-supportive.

Visit the web site here.