We are busying
ourselves with ideas for such things as new lavatories and new uses
for our church. We feel very focused, but what are the things that
we might be missing out?
THE focus of an active
church must be its worship and spiritual life; added activities are
only that - added, not overwhelming.
As you develop your ideas
on paper with your architect, walk around the church and consider
ideas from every angle to ensure that your core purpose is more
than upheld - it can be enhanced.
Your church is sacred
space. As people walk in, they need to feel welcomed, but welcomed
into a place that is redolent with a sense of God and what is
sacred. This has several implications for planning change.
Ensure that every
activity, every session, returns the church to a clean, open space
laid out for prayer and worship. In particular, make sure that all
the trappings of various activities are taken away, or placed in
cupboards. Try to avoid stacks of chairs, boxes, bin bags, tea
towels on radiators, and so on. When you walk in, let the space
take your breath away every time, and draw you into prayer.
If yours is a church that
accumulates junk everywhere, start tackling the issue
systematically. If your sense of God is enhanced by the beauty of
your church, others will find the same.
While you are worshipping
on Sunday morning, someone may need to use the lavatory. Neither
you nor they may wish to be parading up the aisle (even a side one)
to get to a lavatory near the chancel; you might not want to hear
the sound of flushing during prayers, or to be aware of other
distractions. Discuss all these issues with your architect.
Similarly, if you plan to
cook food in the church, you will not want odours of food during
services. It is not conducive to worship and focus on God. In this
case, if you are cooking regularly, you may need a closed-in
kitchen rather than a server, although the latter is much less
intrusive in most buildings.
Extensions to ancient
churches are, on the whole, undesirable. Occasionally they can be
great, but bear in mind that they are significantly more expensive
than internal facilities, and it is far harder to gain permission
for them. Extensions raise almost as many issues as they solve.
Consider an extension only after preparing a comprehensive
Statement of Significance, and consulting people such as the DAC
and English Heritage for advice.
In your booking forms,
and letting policy, make it a pre-requisite that other groups who
are using the church restore it completely when they leave: tables
should be folded and stored, chairs put back, and all materials and
equipment cleared away. Although I recommend having enough storage
for all the church's kit, it often creates problems if you make
storage available to others; there are issues of safety, insurance,
responsibility, and so on.
Some churches want to use
a nave altar. But just as often we are encouraged - or required -
to retain all the chancel furniture and layout. In the context of
the new appearance of the rest of the church, do not ignore the
chancel. Cleaning and refinishing the chancel wood, and renewing
hangings and lighting can all enhance the chancel, high altar,
reredos, and east window as a backdrop to worship.
Send questions and comments to