This is the first of what will be a series of occasional newsletters to update the congregation on the progress of the building arrangements. If you want to talk about any of the plans, you know you can speak with David Hurrell or Mike Clarke or Ian Lucraft.
The Property Committee met at church last week to review the situation now the organ has gone to Poland, and to make the first decisions about how we proceed.
Roy Ashmore and Mike Clarke have made a start on a simple screen where the organ console used to be in the chancel. This screen can be adapted when we know finally how we want the new organ speakers to be positioned. In the meantime it will match up to the chancel wall on the other side.
We decided purposely to leave the arch into the organ loft open, so that all the members could get a feel of how it looks and feels. Please go and walk inside and have a feel. Look at the lovely barrel-vaulted wooden roof.
Already people are beginning to say it is too nice a space just to use it for storage. The committee agreed with that view, and has decided to take a month or two to reflect on how this new space feels, before coming to any long-term decisions.
There are lots of ideas for this space. We could have it as one space, nicely decorated, and as a wonderful high room, adjoining the prayer space that we already use. We could put a floor across the space and use the bottom half as a meeting room with a coffee point, or a dedicated ‘prayer space’ and then have a circular staircase up to a tranquil ‘upper room’.
We might want to keep the arch open, with a glass screen, and a door, so that the whole area becomes integrated as a shared space.
We don’t need to decide all that yet; let’s take a pause and ‘feel’ the space before we make decisions.
The committee had an in-depth discussion about how best to deal with the choir seating. We confirmed the earlier agreement that the choir will come down lower, though not to floor level, and come forward some way, though not too far from the new organ. Until we have spoken with the organ builder, and discussed the best location for the organ speakers, we will not decide on the final arrangements for the choir seating space.
The committee recognised that being able to get back to the original wooden floor that still exists under the choir, and into the organ loft, might in itself be worth being able to do, to give us as many options in future as possible. Then to build semi-permanent modular staging for the table, the minister, the font, and flower arrangements, and with the flexibility to have at least two further ranks of raised seating for the choir, would be a possible option. The ability to have the staging moveable if we needed to would help us with other activities.
We would also like to explore a simple portable lift to enable wheelchairs to reach the platform space. But all this is still to be decided once we have seen where the organ speakers are going. And we want to make sure that the church always looks good for special events during the works
A deposit has been paid for the new organ and the URC Synod has given us approval to move forward and order it. We are contacting the builder urgently for an initial site meeting as soon as possible. We expect it to take three months to build and install. In the meantime, Mark is using the Clavinova through an amplifier and the tests this week show that it will do just fine in the interim.
We hope we might be able to use some of the old decorative organ pipes as a screen in front of the new speakers. There are several ideas for where we put the speakers, and we will not be deciding that until we have met the organ builder.
The committee reflected that it would be a shame to use the new space that we have in the organ loft merely for storage, and so the committee is looking at other possible storage solutions, including a store-room under the church with access from the Lecture Hall, and a possible brick storage unit somewhere in the grounds.
URC Synod meeting for new plans
The URC Synod Property Committee is holding its next meeting here at Christ Church on Tuesday 19th March. At this meeting it is considering our plans, among those of other churches, but it will give the committee a chance to see the effect of our latest version of the plans before they give us their next approval stage, (we hope!). I have discussed the new plans with the Property Secretary at Synod, and Mike has provided al l the papers they require, and some more this week, and we hope that this meeting will enable us to move to the next stage of our developments.
Using the church while the new hall is built
We know it will be very important to do everything we can to retain the friends who use our hall for their groups, Art, Floral, Probus and others, while the hall is being replaced. We have already agreed that the groups will have the use of the church during that time. And we will want to have other events ourselves perhaps in church while the building is being replaced.
In order to make it possible for us all still to have simple refreshments available we are putting a temporary sink unit and serving unit into the old organ loft space, so that we can make and serve drinks etc., from there during the alterations. The sink will be plumbed in, so that we can also wash cups and saucers. We will have a water heater, and some cupboards, perhaps taken out of the old hall, to store the crockery.
We will erect some form of screen across the arch, maybe making use of the dummy pipes, and have an opening to serve drinks through when we need it. We hope it can be closed during services. It may be that we like this facility and might incorporate a proper version in the final plans. Who knows. What we have agreed is to manage this way during the alterations.
The committee said a big ‘thank-you’ to the members of the church who have helped with physical labour and effort and planning, and I too join them in thanking them on your behalf. It feels like we are on our way now, with an agreed set of plans with which we are all comfortable, so that we can have a building that will suit our mission and service in this new century.