Prior to the outbreak of Coronavirus the ‘West End’ interior of the Church building had long been identified as the next phase of reordering. This covers the entire area between the main entrance and the cross-isles and includes the refreshment and children’s play areas which are severely limiting how we use the building. In particular :
• Changes of floor level make access to the refreshments area difficult/dangerous for wheelchair users, prams and buggies and those with mobility issues
• The kitchen facilities are extremely limited and housed in the North porch. It is almost impossible to enforce modern food hygiene standards or to provide anything more substantial than a drink and biscuits
• The children’s play area is very small and located immediately next to the area where hot drinks are served
• It is difficult to serve refreshments at events to large numbers due to the layout of the area
The overall aim of the ‘West End’ project is to continue to transform the building to be a safe, welcoming environment which can better fulfil the modern uses that are being demanded of it.
Five reconfiguration options were drafted for comment by the congregation and the PCC. The option chosen sees a fixed professional kitchen installed at the North West corner along with mobile serving units on wheels which can be moved to keep the space flexible (see drawing below).
The entire floor space at the West end of the church, including raised heating pipes, is brought down to a single level for ease of access and to create a larger space for serving refreshments. A new children’s play area is established on the South West side of the building away from hot drinks. The font which is currently hidden away in the South-West corner will be moved to take a more prominent position too. The plans have undergone extensive scrutiny by the Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC) and other interested bodies and were finally approved in May 2021.
Social isolation is a modern issue and affects a wide range of people; many have limited options due to employment status, disability, financial status, family situation or mental illness. The majority of visitors to the church during the week are not members of the Sunday congregation and we offer a safe haven at no cost to all without prejudice. Footfall counters show that the average number of weekly visits prior to lockdown exceeds 500; they include one-to-one carers with their clients, people who live alone, the homeless and vulnerable, retired people and those who just want to find a quiet place to sit, to contemplate or to pray and find a bit of peace in their busy world.
The impact of being closed during lockdown in 2020 and into 2021 has been clear when we have met people in town who have told us how much they miss just being able to pop in, have a chat, shelter from the elements and simply interact with other human beings!
Whenever we host large numbers of people in church at special services, civic events or concerts it is a challenge to effectively and safely serve refreshments.
As we look to the future we want to be able to offer improved facilities for church and wider community use and to continue our ministry of hospitality as soon as possible post-lockdown.
The project will cost in the region of £130,000. Almost £50,000 has already been raised during Christmas Tree Festivals over recent years and a further £49,000 secured via grants and the PCC has decided to proceed with the full project in a single phase of work. Opportunities for fundraising activities continue to be limited due to Coronavirus restrictions so at the moment we are appealing for donations, small and large, towards the project. If you would like to make a donation please let us know so that we can arrange payment.