More space needed

29 May 2015

IT IS always good to know about a church that is growing so healthily that it needs more space, and extended facilities. St Paul's, in Sarisbury, in Portsmouth diocese, is just such a church. Over the past three years, St Paul's has welcomed about 25 families every Monday for its under-fives group; and about a dozen parents with young babies gather each Thursday morning for its under-twos group.

Many of these families also turn up for a monthly service on Sunday afternoons, when there are craft activities, singing, prayers, a short talk, and tea. On Good Friday, about 100 family members packed the church for a special Easter-themed tea service. "The fact that the church is growing is obviously good news," the Vicar, the Revd Sandy Matheson, says.

"We love having the church full of children and young families, and our commitment to them is shown by the fact that we are employing a new children-and-families worker." But it is not all about young people, he says. "We also welcome elderly people here each month for a group called Encompass."

All this has brought huge pressure on the one available lavatory, which also has to be used as a baby changing-room, and queues can be long; so a significant extension to the facilities is needed. As they have no church hall, they also want a new office, a kitchen, some storage place, and two small meeting rooms. In planning their project, they have also included revamping the existing vestry to create an additional kitchen and storage space. The total scheme is estimated to cost £200,000.

As a church, they are fortunate, Annabella Matheson tells me. Two recent legacies should cover the greater part of the building costs, although they will need to fund-raise for the fitting out. They are currently waiting for planning permission.

The scheme will involve building on part of the churchyard, in a space that includes some older graves, dating from the decades after the church was built, in 1825. It is intended to float the church extension on top of the ground so that none of the graves need be disturbed, but it will mean moving a few headstones a few feet in each direction.

The congregation is trying to discover whether anyone in the community still has a family link to any of the graves that will be affected, although there is no evidence that any of them have been tended in living memory. "We would want to be sensitive to their feelings," Mr Matheson says.

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