Ways to improve the Lady Chapel

What are they doing to my church?

I begin with this rather defensive question, because for some people, any mention of change in the context of a church building is immediately seen as a threat. But neither we, nor the PCC , are seeking to threaten anyone or anything. So this is by way of explanation, and engagement, and genuinely to seek the views of the wider community.

I think we can all agree that we have a beautiful church. However, we felt that there are parts of it – especially in the corners and far edges – that do not seem to us to be fit for purpose at present and which could be enhanced by some gentle and sympathetic re-ordering.

A little while ago there was a request from people in our parish as to whether we could arrange the means for them to light and display candles in memory of loved ones when they visited the church. To try and accommodate this request the PCC has spent some time considering the best and most appropriate way of achieving a solution to this need. In doing so the PCC looked carefully at all potential areas of the church.

The Lady Chapel is the area immediately around the small altar on the right hand side of church as you go in. Sometimes it is referred to as the “Wight-Boycott” chapel.

A few years ago, thanks to the generosity of some parishioners, we were able to purchase new altar hangings for this Chapel – which helped to transform it from a dark and rather forbidding area of the church to one that is more inviting. That set us thinking how it might be further improved and how we might encourage more people to explore and use it as a place of worship and prayer. Because the fact is that at present, almost the only person who actually worships in this chapel is the Minister presiding at our Wednesday morning service.

Many churches keep their Lady Chapel as an area of prayer, where visitors and regular church-goers can pause, perhaps light a candle in memory of a loved one, or as a focus for a particular prayer to God.

Sadly, our Lady Chapel is seldom used for that purpose and has something of the feel of a repository for spare pews – in fact there seem to be a surplus of pews in the building as a whole – those that are not fixed, and from time to time get moved around and indeed have formed quite dangerous tripping hazards.

The PCC began to imagine how the Lady Chapel might be made both more inviting, comfortable, flexible and a better spiritual focus, by replacing the moveable pews (in this part of the building only) with well-designed chairs, and also by the introduction of a small votive candle stand. The cost of this would be partly defrayed by the sale of some or all of the ‘spare’, unfixed pews.

Now none of this can happen until a formal faculty application is made to the Diocesan Advisory Committee – and for that the PCC have to agree on the choice of a chair design and whether or not to introduce votive candles. This diocesan committee exerts a particularly strict control over changes in churches and makes sure that everything is done properly. We know there is a demand in the community for this, but there are aesthetic and practical issues to consider.

So the Fabric Committee of the PCC is considering various options. When some choices have been made, the wider community will get their opportunity to comment, and make any further suggestions that seem appropriate; we wanted to make sure that everyone outside of the PCC is aware in advance of the thinking behind these proposals.

Maureen Hobbs – Vicar
Iain Coleman – Churchwarden
Gena Richards – Churchwarden

This article was published in the September 2017 edition of the Parish News, which was delivered free to all homes in the parish.