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February 2010

Parish tools up for mission with men’s shed

Step into the lounge of St Albans Uniting Parish in Christchurch and you won’t see the usual stack of chairs, worship paraphernalia, bulletin boards, or cartons of books and toys. Instead you’ll find a bench saw, an over-hand planer, a lathe, and heaps of hand tools.

Welcome to the Men’s Shed, a community workshop where men can gather to do carpentry, learn new skills, or just socialise.

Some of the blokes behind the St Alban's Men's Shed (from left)
Bill Pearcy, John Boxall, Bill Delaney, and Hugh Perry.

The St Albans Men’s Shed is the Parish’s new mission initiative. It is a joint project with the community education arm of Papanui High School, and will have its official opening on February 13th.

The men’s shed movement is a growing phenomenon in Australia and New Zealand. Community groups set up men’s sheds to give retired men a way to get out of the house and feel useful and engaged.

In October the St Albans Uniting Parish made the difficult decision to give up two of its properties and consolidate itself on one site. The parish opted to maintain its Aldred church and sell its Merivale and Berwick Street churches.

Rev Hugh Perry explains that the decision was largely driven by the fact that the Aldred complex was best suited for mission outreach, and in particular for a men’s shed.

"Last year, through the City Council’s networking sessions for community groups I learned that Papanui High School wanted to establish a men’s shed. I was familiar with the concept from Hamilton and thought it would be the ideal project for the St Albans Parish because many members are in that retired age group," Hugh says.

"Presbyterian Support makes an effort to get older people out of their homes. They told us they have plenty of places to send old ladies but no place for old blokes, so the parish accepted the challenge."

St Albans Parish treasurer Bill Delaney says financially the Men’s Shed will be run under the auspices of the Parish.

"We received $1000 from Community Education when we started. We held a garage sale that raised $2200 and we received two grants of $2000, one from the City Council and one from Presbyterian Support." Bill says.

Some of the tools have been donated, the larger pieces of equipment from Papanui High School and the hand tools from individuals. Others have been purchased.

The men who come along to the shed will have a range of options. They will be able to work on their own projects or they can work on community projects. Qualified instructors will be on hand, and those who attend will have to be certified to work on the big power tools.

Bill says the Men’s Shed fits into the outward looking ethos of the Parish. The congregation hosts a Music and Movement group, and a number of community groups and two other congregations use its buildings.

Now that the three St Albans Uniting congregations have consolidated themselves at the Aldred complex, the parish will form a mission plan. The Men’s Shed will be a significant part of it and its progress along with other mission initiatives will be monitored. Then, it is hoped the parish will be in a position to consult an architect with an eye to redevelop the buildings to better suit its mission in the 21st century.