Re-Ordering Project Update


– Update APCM 22nd April 2018

It is now nearly two years since the PCC met for a Vision Day, trying to understand what God’s vision was for St Michael’s for the future.  We started with a clean sheet and open minds and came up with a whole set of ideas and plans.  Members of the PCC at the time spoke of the need to look at more flexible arrangement of the space, to resolve the issue of the organ, to make provision for a nave altar and to consider in due course the eventual replacement of the existing chairs to achieve greater comfort and flexibility.


We began by meeting informally with the Archdeacon and with members of the DAC and got ideas from them. We were granted an Archdeacon’s licence for a 15-month experimental period from September 2016 - December 2017 to try out different layouts and to discover what could be achieved with a much more flexible space and moveable seating, and during this period held two open meetings to provide opportunity for feedback.    We now have a nave altar which reflects the overall style of the original arts and crafts design of the Church, we have built a temporary dais to raise the altar so that it is more visible to all; we have settled on an arrangement of the chairs for the regular services that allows the congregation to engage with the Eucharist, and importantly for the president to engage directly with the congregation. It has been good to experiment with different layouts at different times of the year, which has enriched our experience of worship. We have also found that those who come to church for weddings, baptisms or funerals have commented very positively on the layout. Many have spoken of a feeling of being both welcomed and ‘embraced’ by the new layout.


Last October we obtained a faculty for the replacement of the Allen organ, a replacement that was much encouraged by the DAC to provide a more open space at the front of the Church. Its removal from the front of the church has revealed the pulpit for the first time in about 30 odd years.  Now that this has been achieved and we have more or less settled on an East-facing in the round layout for most services we can reinstate the use of the lectern to achieve that lovely symmetry between pulpit and lectern. We now have a much smaller organ but one which can be played from three locations and importantly is moveable. We have only had it for a couple of weeks and there are tweaks that we will need to make but it has already found favour with our organists.


In January we received a faculty approving the permanent arrangement of a nave altar and the removal of the battens from the chairs to maintain the flexible seating arrangement. We have also removed the carpet from the nave and the area at the back of church, and we have had the floor re-polished. This has removed an artificial barrier and allowed more flexibility in the placing of chairs.


The object of the reordering process has been to try to envisage what might be needed for liturgy and worship and for a wider range of activities for the next 20-25 years and to work with God in achieving that vision. We have met with the architect on several occasions and a few weeks ago five members of the reordering group went to his office and talked through more changes, relying on his experience for guiding us as to what would be appropriate and acceptable to the DAC, showing how the design should fit together.


What we have arrived at is I think the fourth iteration of his plans which we are still developing. These plans encompass lowering the font and setting it in to the floor to avoid the hazard of the step we have at the moment. It incorporates some new storage units which as the architect pointed out cannot be IKEA but properly designed and made in keeping with the architecture of the building, but this storage will help to create a less cluttered area at the back, and provide proper storage for music for organ and choir. We have looked at the location of the children’s area, which will be a dedicated space defined by special adaptation of the front choir stalls which it is proposed will be removed to create more flexible space in the chancel. We need to increase the number of power sockets we have in the church as well.  The plans also include the eventual installation of a data projector and screen.


The current plans do indicate what the layout might be should the congregation and PCC favour the eventual purchase of new chairs, with two potential alternatives. Let me assure you however, that  NO DECISION HAS BEEN MADE! Remember that what we are looking at is a long-term plan. We have to plan now for what we hope to achieve in the future so that as it is implemented over time the various bits will fit together.  We still have much to do. The plan we have at the moment or a variant thereof has to be costed and agreed, we will need to apply for additional faculty or faculties and we have to find the funding, but hopefully if everyone sees what we are trying to achieve we will all get there.


In terms of process, the PCC appointed a Reordering Committee in May 2017, which continues to meet regularly and present findings to the PCC.  It is good to be able to present these plans to the APCM and that they remain on display over a period of weeks to give people a chance to have a detailed look at them, but do bear in mind these plans are not yet final. Following the PCC meeting in May it is proposed that we call an open meeting in early June to present the current phase of plans, and seek any questions or feedback from you all, in line with previous practice in consultation with you all over the layout.  In the meantime any comments or feedback to the Vicar, Churchwardens or PCC members are welcome at any time.

The Vicar and Churchwardens.

APCM 22 April 2018




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


August 2017

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