Sunday, 29 May 2022

Gracehill World Heritage Conference

In late February it was confirmed that Gracehill had been successfully added to the UK Tentative list of potential World Heritage Sites and details will now be sent to UNESCO in Paris. This was another significant and timely step on the journey to World Heritage inscription as the Settlement was to be the venue for an international conference to discuss the next steps in the nomination process only a few weeks later.
From March 21st to 23rd delegates attending from Bethlehem (USA), Herrnhut (Germany) and the UK and Ireland were given a warm welcome made all the more so by the bright Spring sunshine which persisted throughout the conference. A number of international delegates also attended via Zoom.

Proceedings began with a short welcome service in Gracehill Moravian Church conducted by Bishop Sarah Groves. Sr Roberta Thompson gave readings in German and hymns were bilingual.

Following the service, specially commissioned music videos featuring pupils from some of the post primary schools in the Ballymena Learning Together group was launched. This included an old song entitled 'Gracehill' which had been found in the church archives. Later in the morning the musical theme continued with a lively and enthusiastic performance by the P3 class of Gracehill Primary School.

The two-day conference included a mixture of workshops and also tours of the Settlement to look at the historic planned layout. There were also visits to a number of the listed buildings including the newly restored Old Village Shop, which dates from 1787, in addition to God's Acre and the village Square where visitors were entertained by Ballyduff silver band.

Workshops led by Mr Barry Gamble and Ms Friederike Hansell, both world heritage experts, explored such areas as the State of Conservation and factors affecting the property, the protection and management of the property and the international property management plan, all in preparation for submission of further documentation to UNESCO in Paris as the next step in the application process nears completion.

A conference dinner was hosted by the Mayor of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, Cllr William McCaughey, who presented plaques to visiting representative to mark their visit to the Borough.

The conference was judged a great success as not only were many topics discussed and international partnerships enriched as we worked towards a common goal but also the potential of World Heritage as a vehicle to reach out to the wider community, nationally and internationally and raise the profile of the Moravian ethos was increasingly apparent.

Br David Johnston

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Church House is the Headquarters of the Moravian Church in the British Province and is located in London at:
Moravian Church House, 

5 Muswell Hill, 
N10 3TJ


020 8883 3409

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