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What if? Phase 1 Building Development Plans

Updated: Mar 19, 2019

Over the past year, we have communicated some exciting possibilities for our parish centre and gardens. At the last meeting about buildings we shared a video showing some possible changes that could be made to the inside of the church. It has been fantastic to sense the excitement in our church family about these and also to get some input, comments and feedback about them. The PCC have been working hard to continue to develop our ideas and to establish plans for putting them into effect. The PCC are now ready to share information on the first significant steps we plan to take towards these ideas – these steps will involve some changes to the main church building including the replacement of the nave pews with chairs, an upgrade to our power supply and some new lighting. In addition, they will include the appointment of an architect to create the detailed plans and funding applications necessary to enable subsequent phases. These first phase steps are ones we are excited about because of the flexibility they will unlock in our building and the missional activity and church community enrichment they will enable.

The PCC has reached this decision carefully and prayerfully. We have been discussing this possibility for some time and have held a number of consultation meetings where the ideas have been shared and talked about. We have been very careful to stay true to the principles we have established to guide our building project as we have made this decision.

These are as follows:

•   All the changes we make will be guided by our church vision – we make changes to enable and facilitate the ‘up’ (worship and prayer), ‘in’ (shared life together) and ‘out’ (mission) relationship of our church family by making the church more functional and relevant.

• We want to strike the careful balance between sensitivity and continuity with our past (in terms of the architectural heritage of the building and the history of St John’s as a worshipping community at the heart of Clarendon Park) and adapting to the needs of the present and the future.


In the course of our conversations about the replacement of the nave pews, we have been sensitive to the fact that thoughts and feelings about this step vary. For many of us, the idea of replacing pews is a very exciting possibility, but for some of us it is a difficult and even painful prospect. We are keen to be sensitive to this recognising the moment of ‘ending’ as well as ‘new beginnings’. Some of us carry an emotional attachment to the pews, perhaps because we see them as more practical than chairs, maybe because we have known dear friends and relations who have sat on these pews or maybe because our life experience has taught us to naturally associate pews with church. So, for some of us there may be a sense of loss or even grief that we go through before we can get excited about the future. We want to be sensitive to this and are ready to talk through how you are feeling about it.


The church, as we have it today, represents a legacy left to us by former generations. We know that our church was founded and built as a result of the vision and generosity of the vicar of St Mary’s Knighton and of generous individuals. It has subsequently been further adapted and maintained by the hard work and sacrificial generosity of subsequent generations. We too have a responsibility to adapt and maintain our buildings, so they meet our needs and continue to meet the needs of future generations. Replacing our pews with chairs is a key step towards this end.


Replacing of pews with chairs is a step many churches have made with very positive results. In fact, although we often associate pews with church, pews were only actually installed in churches in a very narrow period of history: the Victorian era. Replacing pews with chairs brings us in line with a more contemporary approach to seating and space.

Our vision is to be:

'The family of God on mission seeking to transform Clarendon Park and beyond through the love and power of Jesus Christ.'

In realising this vision, we seek to grow and to go – to be an enabling and sending church. Replacing pews with flexible seating have many benefits that directly support this vision, including:

Enable mission – although pews might be a helpful form of seating for a Sunday morning service, at most other times of the week, their inflexibility limits the extent that we can use the building. Flexible seating enables a wide variety of uses of the building that lead to mission, build community and generate income. For example, we could accommodate a larger Alpha course, we could much more easily accommodate our Friday Sparks Group, new and different missional uses of the building would be possible such as coffee mornings for the elderly, mid-week holy communion services and so on. Possible uses are almost endless in number with flexible seating.

Enable Growth – the seating capacity of the church would more than double with chairs rather than pews. Research that shows that congregations typically stop growing when seating capacity reaches around 70%.

Enable Contemporary forms of worship – flexible seating would enable different seating arrangements. This would enable creative approaches to prayer and worship that would connect with today’s culture in a more relevant way.

Increased income – flexible and contemporary seating will make the church a much more attractive venue for hire.

School – our school is growing. Currently we can only accommodate the school in two halves, very soon even this will not be possible. Being able to seat children on the floor would mean we can accommodate the whole school in one go which carries tremendous symbolic significance.


Along with replacing the pews, we also plan a number of other items which together will form Phase I of our church redevelopment plan:

Need to upgrade the power supply to the church. This is because the electricity demands of a larger congregation are greater than the church wiring can safely support. Additionally, we plan to modernise the lighting within the church. Finally, and significantly, we also need to appoint an architect to do the detailed planning that will support subsequent phases.We estimate that phase I will cost around £50,000.

Subsequent phases of our building redevelopment plan are likely to include re-landscaping of the grounds, refurbishment of the parish centre, replacement of the church heating, installing glass doors to the church, knocking through the rear of the church into the parish centre and some significant external repairs to the masonry of the church. More details to follow.


This Sunday we open a formal 30-day period of consultation on the replacement of the pews and the upgrading of our power supply. This is a time for gathering views. During this period, we will select the chairs we will purchase to replace the pews and create a plan for the removal of the pews. The Pews will be offered for sale to members of the church and local community, any that are not sold will be sold commercially.


The PCC are excited about this project. We believe that successfully taking this first step will build excitement and expectation for the future. To enable this step, we need to raise the money. There are a number of approaches that we will take to fund raising, including applying for grants and organising events, but it is likely that for changes of this nature, the majority of the funds will need to come from us, the church congregation. The purchase of chairs is a fun and tangible focus for our giving – we invite everyone to consider paying for a new chair for themselves and the members of their family. But our giving will need to go beyond this and will require generosity and sacrifice. We encourage you to begin praying now about what you will give.

We invite you to continue to pray about our building project, for wisdom and guidance and especially that God would release the funds required. We look forward to the on-going journey.

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