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St Michael's Church





Leading St Michael’s Church into the Future
Please do read this article which reports on the successful Public Meeting held on 29 September.

The meeting opened with a presentation by the Reverend Steve Carter, who outlined how St Michael’s Church had changed and developed over the past few centuries to meet the needs of the worshiping community, and to explain the reasons for the proposed development to bring the church into the 21st century.

The development proposals were outlined by David Cowen with the help of drawings prepared by the PCC’s architect, Malcolm Craig, which included:

1. The existing porch to be converted into a toilet which would comply with the Disability Discrimination Act legislation

2. A new entrance into the church to be located between the central stone buttresses to the west gable under the bell tower, and directly accessible from the public footpath. The roof over the porch will either be a mono-pitch or a double pitch, final details are still to be worked out. A pair of external doors lead into a draught lobby with mat well, with a second door leading directly into the church. The whole access would be user-friendly with no steps or ramps between the footpath and the nave floor. Provision would be made within the proposal for the continued use of the two bell pulls. The area outside the new entrance would be paved/landscaped. Entering the church in the centre of the west end will greatly enhance the visual impact of this fine building, and the change of use of the existing porch means no new building/extension is required, which will help to make the project more economical to construct. If the scheme proceeds, there would be no serious disruption to the church’s activities, the new entrance would come first and, when operational, the conversion of the porch. The small stained glass monk’s window would be carefully removed and re-sited either in the converted porch or at high level over the new entrance. Forming the new entrance will require the font to be re-sited and the step around the present font would be removed. It is proposed to re-site the font to the right of the new entrance (as viewed entering the church) where there is adequate space between the rear west wall and the back of the first pew, remembering that the first pew is to be removed to allow additional circulation. Traditionally it is important to retain the font at the rear of the church.

3. Proposals were outlined to take out the first three rows of pews at the front of the nave, and to provide unobtrusive tea/coffee facilities to the left of the door between the north transept and the vestry. These facilities would be simple, practical and much safer to use.

The assembled audience were invited to ask questions. A summary of the questions, answers and statements is provided below:

I am very excited about the changes and the opportunity to have informal styles of worship as well as the traditional.

I like the idea of the new entrance and toilet area.

Why was the original entrance to the church under the tower (west gable) changed? The answer to this question is being researched in the records.

What about bell ringing? Bell ringing will continue from the back of the church but will require some modifications.

The church building – which has priority, alterations or repairs? The churchwardens have a statutory duty to maintain the building. Any improvements/alterations have to be considered as separate issues. There are already funds building up for the provision of the toilet, which have been obtained through numerous fund raising efforts. It is proposed to link in order of priority the repairs to the improvements which will ensure nothing is carried out twice. Repairs are to be scheduled as to priority.

Are the choir stalls to be removed? Removal of the choir stalls has been discussed and they are to remain in their present position for the time being.

By creating a large space at the front of the church, there will be a gap between the choir/ministry team and the congregation. Is the PCC planning to use a mobile altar? The intention is to provide removable chairs when appropriate within the additional open space. The chairs would be made of wood, comfortable, stacking and have a book rest. When not needed the chairs could be stacked within the south transept and suitably screened. Steve Carter advised it would be possible to have a movable altar for the “preparation of gifts”.

Rather than remove pews from the front of the church, what about moving them from the back only or could we reduce the number of rows of pews to be removed from the front of the church? Large congregations would use the pews and new chairs, small congregations would be encouraged to use the new chairs. It is not envisaged or intended to leave a big blank space at the front of the church. In creating the space, greater flexibility and versatility could be achieved.

Are there churches in the diocese that have carried out projects which have similarities to the St Michael’s project? The answer is yes, and it was suggested that any person wishing to see the impact of such alterations should visit Ambleside/Frizington/Scotby.

Would it be possible to partition off the rear section of the nave and re-order the front of the church? No vision is ruled out and there are, when it becomes appropriate, some other developments which could be considered.

To summarise – the proposals are a very exciting development in the church’s history. The unique position of the building within the Square coupled with a new and improved entrance, together with the provision of proper facilities, will enable the building to be used to a greater extent. This is the challenge – let us begin to put it in place now.