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Zion Institutional Church, Hulme, Manchester, UK

January 17, 2016


The Akron Plan for religious education, as well as its physical form known by the same name, was essentially a North American phenomenon. As essentially a Methodist invention, it might be expected in other English-speaking countries, England where it had been born and places where Methodism and been transplanted — Australia and New Zealand are logical candidates — but that seems not to have been the case. The Institutional Church, however, can be found in the U.S., Canada, and England, among other countries.

Zion Institutional Church in Manchester was built about 1907-1908 to serve the working classes in one of England’s industrial centers. Both the building and its architects Bradshaw & Cass are unknown to me, though the church’s papers are preserved in the local Bolton Archives; perhaps they’ve preserved plan that will give some notion of the variety of programs offered, in addition to an auditorium for preaching and classrooms for religious education.

This British version and its U.S. counterparts — in the case of “institutional churches” it’s difficult to call them typical — often appear as secular buildings: libraries, municipal buildings, etc. rather than self-consciously religious, say, in the Gothic tradition. Edwardian in style, there are libraries and other contemporary government buildings that are practically interchangeable.

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