If you have not yet visited Minchinhampton Church to see the architect’s first draft of proposals for the re-ordering, then please do go and take a look at the displays, plans and photographs in church. After presenting them to the local community on 5th March, we are continuing to assess your feedback and comments. Thank you for such wonderful responses. The building project team are feeling very encouraged by your comments. The plans will remain on view over the next few weeks, as we take it on to the next stage. Our meeting with the DAC – The Diocesan Advisory Committee – is in the diary and we are busy applying for further grants and setting up a fund-raising campaign to raise the additional capital we need. We are delighted to be working with the Market House, as we seek to endorse one another’s plans and provide complementary not competitive spaces within our community. By the time this goes to press, we should have the proper breakdown of projected costs for the plans. We are currently on target for beginning the actual work immediately after Easter 2017.
Meanwhile, it seemed helpful to give a summary of the plans that were presented.
In the presentation, I reminded us that we have to address the problems with our church building: namely, damp, humidity and heating issues; acoustic problems: disabled access; flexibility of space for both church and for community – our traditional role as a superb concert venue, for instance. The brief we gave the architect asked him to address these issues and ensure that there were alternative locations for the focus of worship – the high altar in the Chancel, which we will continue to use as appropriate, a nave altar, and the preservation of the essential character of the Lady Chapel as a place for smaller services and private prayer. We may not have the money to do everything yet, but we are in the fortunate position to do the majority.
Heating, Seating, Flooring
The first issue will be to address issues of heating, seating and flooring.
The proposal is to remove the pews and their wooden platforms (which probably rest simply on the earth) and install an under-floor heating system based on hot water pipes, and create a new level stone floor from the entrance to the steps at the high altar. This raising the whole floor to one level – that of the chancel. A slight gradient at the entrance to achieve this will be no more than the camber you get on an ordinary road. To give maximum flexibility to the building, the proposal presented suggested chairs which connect, and the samples provided are still in church if you would like to try them out! The sets of chairs would be easily movable, and could be readily stacked when not in use.
The Rood Screen and the Lady Chapel
Photograph created by the architect with the rood screen removed.
The proposal is to make the most of our rood screen by moving it 90° into the archway between chancel and Lady Chapel. This has the advantage of opening up the chancel both in terms of accessibility to the high altar and chancel (we currently suffer from bottle-necks on Sundays!) and opening up the view to the glorious East window and beautiful and unusual painted chancel ceiling. It also helps to enclose the Lady Chapel and keep it as a place set apart for quiet prayer. The rood beam will remain where it is.
The Chancel and Choir
The chancel will remain as it is, but with the present choir stalls removed and some new, specially designed moveable choir stalls that accommodate music stands. This means the chancel can be cleared of these when we need that space opening up, but means also that the choir can be gathered behind a nave altar, rather than lined up at the sides of the chancel. The point is there will be greater flexibility for where the choir needs to be for both individual services and for particular parts of the services.
Nave and High Altar
The proposals included a nave altar on a moveable dais, and so capable of being moved – and removed – when required. A new altar table, worthy of its liturgical significance, will be designed for this. These plans enable us to continue to use both a nave altar and a high altar, according to what the services we offer demand. The proposals over moveable choir stalls also means that the chancel can be used as a small chapel for services of up to 50 people – a space we currently lack and desperately need, where we can place seating in the chancel facing the high altar. This will create an intimate and beautiful space to worship.
The proposals include moving the font from the side in the baptistery as you come in, to a central position in the baptistery. Theologically, this is significant! The font is always near the door, for it is our entry point into the Church, and our life is lived between font and altar. To have it central returns it to its paramount importance in our journey of faith: baptism is supposed to be inconvenient! It is supposed to interrupt our lives and enable us to live differently, and therefore our walking around the font as we enter church helps us to remember this. The font, high altar and pulpit will become the only fixed points in the church. With everything else moveable, we will create a truly flexible space which meets current needs and the needs of future generations, who will be able to use the space as they wish.
Entrance to Church and New Storage
It is proposed that glass doors replace current entrance doors, making the building more welcoming and inviting to visitors. A new storage area, leading off from the ‘back door’ between the toilets and kitchen, will enable us to house the large staging we have for concerts (currently stored behind ugly boards at the back of the church, taking up an inordinate amount of space) as well as the extra seating for when we have large events and need to seat 300.
It is worth remembering that the vast majority of the building stays exactly the same. We are opening up the flexibility to better serve our worship and our community needs. To do this, we are really developing a more comfortable, flexible space and moving the furniture round, rather than anything else. We look forward to updating you on progress through this process as we seek to care for, maintain and enhance this wonderful building!