The main Scottish denominations are launching a £500,000 appeal to transform Scottish Churches House in Dunblane - which has a long tradition of radical thinking and outward social engagement - into a modern conference and hospitality centre to be at the forefront of its work over the next 50 years.
Scottish Churches House (SCH - http://www.scottishchurcheshouse.org/) has played a major role in promoting Christian unity, peace and justice concerns, and understanding between faith and other groups for 50 years.
In recent times SCH has faced cutbacks as church boards have sought to reduce or reallocate resources, and there have been fears that it will face closure unless more money is found.
Those close to the House say that a renewed commitment by the churches to its work is vital, as well as finance.
Scottish Churches House has been described as "a unique spiritual, intellectual and social resource" and an important place of hospitality.
"In an era where the search for faith, hope, justice and spirituality goes well outside formal religious institutions, the work of Scottish Churches' House is seen by many as reaching out beyond church walls - a sign of what the churches need to become and to embrace at the end of the era of Christendom, when Christianity is no longer normative in wider society and needs to be renewed differently", commented Simon Barrow, co-director of the religion and society think-tank Ekklesia, and a long term SCH user.
In their media release, the churches readily acknowledge that "for 50 years there has been radical thinking, encounters designed to resolve conflict and educational, cultural and spiritual programmes" at the House.
SCH is also seen as a window of the churches on the civic life of Scotland, a place where faith meets and is tested by social and political realities.
In the dining room of Scottish Churches House at Dunblane stands a clock made by prisoners at Aberdeen Craiginches Prison as a token of their solidarity with the parents of the children massacred at the Dunblane Primary School in 1996.
The House now needs a property fit for purpose to support its programme and other activities. It was founded in 1960 on the Golden Jubilee of the 1910 Edinburgh Conference, from where ecumenical, inter-church cooperation in Scotland started.
Its own Jubilee will coincide with the Centenary celebrations of the 1910 conference. The Scottish Churches say they will help endow a refurbished House as a visible symbol of working together in the run up those celebrations.
The refurbishment will provide the bedrooms with en-suite facilities, update catering provision and transform key conference capacity. A public appeal will be launched in early 2008 to raise the £500,000 necessary.
Danus Skene, the leader of the interim management group charged with raising the funds and project managing the refurbishment, said “I am truly excited at the future for Scottish Churches House. We already have raised £125,000 from the Carmichael Montgomery Charitable Trust for this refurbishment even before our appeal has been properly launched and have recently had over 130 letters expressing ongoing support for the work that is done here.”
Information on Scottish Churches House can be found here: http://www.scottishchurcheshouse.org/
Details about contributions: http://www.scottishchurcheshouse.org/donations/