The preferred use of a heritage place of worship is its original one, according to A Guide for Conserving Heritage Places of Worship in Ontario Communities

Effectively Conserving and Managing Heritage Places of Worship

The following text is from p. 24 of Heritage Places of Worship – A Guide to Conserving Heritage Places of Worship in Ontario Communities. A related website of interest is Ontario Heritage Trust – Ontario’s Places of Worship.

The introductory text (p. 24) in the section of the above-noted guide dealing with conservation and management of heritage places of worship reads as follows:

The preferred use of a heritage place of worship is its original one. Not only is this the function for which it was designed, but a building in continuing use is generally better maintained and conserved. Heritage places of worship that continue to play a role in the community are often symbols of community pride.

The statement of cultural heritage value or interest and accompanying description of heritage attributes is a guide for decisions on conservation, management and ongoing use of the heritage place of worship. At the same time, those decisions will need to take into account the evolving religious needs of the faith group and other users if it is to remain viable.

Some key factors that help property owners successfully conserve heritage places of worship include:

  • Understanding the property’s heritage value
  • Responsiveness to ongoing change
  • Sound conservation principles, using the advice of a multi-disciplinary team of specialists
  • A core group of dedicated volunteers
  • Taking a proactive approach
  • Broad base of community and public- sector support and participation
  • Identification of the heritage property as a community asset

The goal should be to conserve cultural heritage value while keeping heritage places of worship viable as active, evolving functional spaces.

[End of excerpt of from the guide]

Designating Heritage Properties

The guide notes that details about the municipal process for alteration of designated properties can be found in Designating Heritage Properties: A Guide to Municipal Designation of Individual Properties under the Ontario Heritage Act, available at

Living cultural heritage resources

As I’ve mentioned in an earlier blog post, when I first encountered the expression “living cultural heritage resources,” the meaning of the expression escaped me.

The phrase appears on page one of the above-noted guide:

“Many cultural heritage properties change or are adapted over time, but places of worship may be different in that they often have evolving spiritual values in addition to cultural heritage value. Heritage places of worship may be thought of as ‘living cultural heritage resources’ due to the ongoing need to change or adapt them to new philosophies, doctrines or practices of worship. This should be considered when deciding the best approach to conserving a heritage place of worship.”

The meaning of the expression “living cultural resources” remains unclear to me, but the shorter term, “cultural heritage resources,” is easier to comprehend. It’s a term used in varied contexts in the above-mentioned document, as in the following examples:

“A heritage impact assessment is a study to determine if any cultural heritage resources are impacted by a specific proposed development or site alteration. This type of study can also show how the heritage place of worship could be conserved in the context of a site redevelopment or alteration (e.g., subdivision of the property)” (p. 27).

As well, a glossary in the document defines the words conserve’ (p. 52) and “heritage attributes” (p. 53) in the context of cultural heritage resources:


Conserve is defined in the document as:

“A broad term to describe activities related to identifying, protecting, using, and/or managing cultural heritage resources in such a way that retains their heritage value. ‘Conserving’ and ‘conservation’ have corresponding meanings.”

Heritage attributes

The glossary at the end of the guide defines heritage attributes as: “in relation to real property, and to the buildings and structures on the real property, the attributes of the property, buildings and structures that contribute to their cultural heritage value or interest.”


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