St Nick’s is the kind of open and generous place where fresh and creative things are welcomed and embraced. Over the years, I’ve always been grateful for the willingness of church members to try new approaches to worship, be flexible while building works go on, and enjoy the creative arts in our magnificent building.
This month I want to write about the proposed next phase of work on the building. Now, I know this can generate weary groans among some. Building stuff is rarely something that sets hearts aflutter. However, at our most recent meeting, the PCC committed to exploring some very exciting plans for St Nick’s future.
Before I outline them, it’s important to say this: the primary concern of the PCC and I is to ensure that St Nick’s never loses sight of its primary purpose
as a place dedicated to the glory of God. We exist to worship God and one of the ways we do that is in being a servant community in our parish. The proposed plans seek to keep these primary purposes centre-stage.
So, let’s begin with the more functional aspects of the plan. During the last phase of work, it was discovered that the high-level windows (the small stained-glass ones) are in a parlous state. These windows were not included in the original work. However, we managed to find some money in budget savings to repair some of the worst-hit windows, but there are several which
require urgent repair.
Equally, it will not have escaped your notice that the east entrance area is in need of work. While it is now watertight, it is unsightly and does not signal the level of welcome any of us should like. The next phase of work aims to address the twin concerns of the high-level windows and the east entrance, but to do so much more.
Here’s the exciting bit, then: The PCC has engaged our architect to produce a feasibility study to explore the redevelopment of the east entrance (the Entrance Lobby) and Choir Vestry. That, of course, shall involve redecoration, but also includes the prospect of opening-up that area.
We are looking at adding glass doors to the entrance (whilst retaining the original doors). This would mean being able to have the original front doors open for services all year around. It would address the issue that many new people face when coming to St Nick’s: coming in through those imposing
doors. Instead, the imposing doors would be held open and people could see in through the glass doors.
In addition, we have increasingly found that we lack usable spaces for community and church use. Thus, the architect is going to look how we can adapt that front area so that it can be hired out by the community. It would involve looking at the current lavatory arrangements in that area, as well as adding a kitchenette in the choir vestry. It would need to be both wheelchair accessible as well as secure, so that the space could be hired out without giving immediate access to the church or Rector’s Vestry.
A further area we want to look at is how we can make the main church space as flexible as possible, for both worship and community use. Some of you will recall that in about 2012/3 we looked at removing some of the pews and replacing them with chairs. We had general support for this, and – subject to certain conditions – support from the Diocesan Advisory Committee. This is something we want to revisit.
Our pews are tricky and bulky items of furniture to work with. Whenever we have a Fair or a big community event they need to be moved around. This is a task that has become more wearisome over time. They also limit our options for worship, especially for Taizē. It also means that we are quite limited in how we might make the church area available for (appropriate) hire. Thus, we are considering the replacement of most of the pews with chairs.
Clearly, this is a process that will take time and about which I hope to hear your views and opinions, both positive and negative. It is also predicated on raising substantial sums of money (again!). I appreciate that that side of things can be unpalatable, especially after you have been so very generous with donations not only for previous work on the roof, but also for our new
I genuinely hope that the main burden of raising money will not fall on our regular congregations. The proposed works are so major that we shall be dependent on the support of national as well as local sources for grants. I am confident that, as a nationally significant building already on the Historic England radar, we shall find a great deal of financial support for our work.
Nonetheless, much responsibility will come back to us. We are the stewards of a mighty building and a fine heritage, but more than that, a people who keep alive a living faith. Our building without people and faith is but a clanging cymbal; with us it sings a symphony of love. If it can feel like a burden to keep the ‘show’ on the road, it is also our gift to be stewards of a
building that can have so much to offer in the future. We are called to keep the rumour of God alive in Burnage, and more than that: to celebrate the vibrant presence of God in our community and beyond, yesterday, today and tomorrow.