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TAKEN FROM THE VICAR'S CHRISTMAS LETTER
On the subject of buildings, last year I wrote to you with news of a project underway to look at the physical ordering of St Michael’s. This has remained under the active consideration of the PCC throughout the year, and we have continued to experiment with various layouts. Following a consultation exercise in the summer, we are now working on the first phase of re-ordering. This involves the replacement of the Allen organ. The second phase will see the installation of a permanent nave altar and seating that will be East-facing, with a curved arrangement of chairs, and including some minor alterations to the chancel so that it becomes a designated space for prayer and smaller services. This is currently what we are been experimenting with as the Reordering Committee works through detailed plans with our architect. I am happy to report that a Faculty for the first phase, the replacement of the Allen Organ, has now been granted. We hope to have the new organ in its new position by the end of February. It is my hope that by the end of 2018 our reordering project will be fully completed, and we can turn our attention to other things.
Many of you are aware of progress regarding the reordering project from general conversations in church, and PCC members are always happy to answer any questions or give feedback – feel free to ask them. I recognise though that there are questions about what is taking place and when, and felt that now is a good time to update everyone on progress.
Following a detailed amount of work done by the Organ group appointed by the PCC (Jo Clayton, AlanMotson, Chris Dowie, Richard Ely), a full presentation was given to the PCC meeting in July. The majority of members (15 for, 2 abstentions, 2 against) voted for the proposal given that the Allen organ be disposed of, and a new Viscount Envoy 35-S be purchased. The suitability of this instrument for our purposes was wholeheartedly endorsed by Chris Dowie in a technical note presented to the PCC. The PCC were also satisfied that necessary funds are in place, and that money give for the Organ Restoration Fund remains Restricted for that purpose only.
Work is now in hand to gather the necessary paperwork together for a submission to the DAC for a Notice of Advice (Faculty application first phase) to enable us to get on with the project. We have a fixed price quote valid for six months, which gives us plenty of time to go through due process.
48 people attended a briefing session attended by the Archdeacon at the end of June. At that meeting a presentation was given by Alan Motson (Churchwarden), reminding us of the journey we have been on regarding the layouts we have experienced in the past year, listing the pros and cons of what we have tried, and demonstrating how greater flexibility of the space can be achieved. Those attending All Age Worship on 6 August can attest to how the flexibility we now have can contribute to innovative and refreshing worship.
Views were sought as to which layout people prefer and three options presented:
i) Revert to traditional layout
ii) North facing
iii) East facing in the round.
44 of the 48 present expressed the view that option iii) was the most preferable.
The outcomes of this consultation have been discussed by the PCC, and by members of the Reordering Committee (Membership: The Vicar, Alan Motson, Marjorie Shaw, Caroline Jones, James Westgate, John Spatchet, Muriel Jacobs, Jo Clayton, Nigel Davies), which meets on a monthly basis. This committee has looked in detail at each area of the building in order to provide our architect with a full brief in order that plans can now be drawn up and the architect is visiting the church this month. Areas needing careful consideration include the potential re-siting of the font, provision of storage space, the choir area, and flooring. There are certain things that we can and cannot do at this stage of experimentation, and the Reordering Committee are being careful to ensure that we do not make hasty decisions – this is an ongoing and developing process. Architect’s plans will be made available for everyone to see once we have got to that stage.
What is now clear is that two key decisions have been made:
1. Installation of a new Organ
2. The agreement that we retain a flexible layout with East facing in the round orientation for most services, with a nave altar and platform, and now work actively to achieve this through the Faculty process.
Over the coming weeks and months there will be some observable changes within the building – all of which are subject to due process and fall within the Archdeacon’s permissions. The biggest change will be the installation of the new organ towards the end of the year, once a Faculty is granted. Other changes include a ‘temporary’ removal of the aisle carpet to see what impact that has on the space. This will also reveal the historic Victorian heating grating – the by-product of this will be that the heating will work much more efficiently. Work may need to be done making good any issues arising with the wooden floor after the removal of the Allen organ. Active consideration is also being given to the ordering of the sanctuary space (prayer space). We have also acquired a nave altar subject to faculty approval, which has been gifted to us at no cost to church funds, and the donor is aware that the current arrangement, should Faculty approval not be granted, is that it can be sold back to the supplier at no significant loss.
There has also been considerable discussion about replacement of the chairs, which has evoked some strong feelings. This is a decision that clearly cannot be rushed, and we need to get right. I want to reassure members of the congregation that none of the chair samples we had in church were deemed entirely suitable. We are actively seeking the advice of the architect as to what designs of chair might be suitable in the future, but it is recognised that we need to take more time to address this. This will therefore be treated as a separate item for the future. There will come a time when the chairs do need replacing: the original rush chairs were replaced by the existing chairs in 1953 – so it could be argued that they are in fact due for replacement in the not too distant future. We would do well therefore to keep this under active consideration but not rush to a decision this year.
Thank you to all those who are working hard behind the scenes, shifting furniture, discussing ideas, seeking expert advice and doing background research on behalf of the PCC and its committees. And thank you to members of the congregation for your patience and willingness to embrace change. I recognise this has been an uncomfortable process for some, but hope that we can all bear in mind that our goal has been to enrich and enhance our worship, and to create a flexible and more welcoming space to embrace all in our community.
Revd Suzanne Pattle