Palgrave Parochial Church Council began to consider a need for physical alterations to the church building in 2003. We were prompted initially by the introduction of the Disability and Discrimination Act, in which particular we were usefully advised by Dr Colin Cunningham in August 2003. An access audit was completed in the format provided by Suffolk Historic Churches Trust. With this awareness of new obligations and duties it would have been understandable to have made the earliest possible start upon whatever scheme would quickly (and cheaply) have provided level access,a disabled toilet, and better lighting – without looking to the future and to our real needs. And the result would have been second rate.
In September 2004 the PCC responded to ‘Building for the Future’ – the Diocesan buildings strategy survey – which invited us to think deeply about how our church building serves the community and what impression of The Church is projected. About that time the PCC carried out a survey of users’ needs, from the point of view of disability and access. There was further inspiration to be had from the Church of England’s publication ´Building Faith in our Future´. Alongside considerations of the physical requirements for a church, recent years have seen much enlightened discussion of ways of ‘being Church’ in which we are urged to appreciate that the Church has a more relevant role in the community than simply the Sunday services in pews. The parishes of North Hartismere Benefice have actively taken forward the Diocese’ initiatives on ‘Ministry and Mission’.
Further review of the current state of the building has indicated that on top of the above-mentioned alterations, there is some important maintenance work to be done, particularly relating to the roof. These modifications are included in the overall project.
In the current plan, it is hoped to provide new facilities, reordering, and other improvements at St Peter’s church. It will be the first significant physical alteration to the building since 1861.
Project Overview of the project is to support and enhance:
The role of the church in the community
The physical location of St Peter´s in the village is a clear indication of the central role that the building has played over the centuries. In thepast, the church was surrounded by the village school, pub, post office, forge and village shop. But this is no longer the case! It is not that the location of the church has changed, but all the other facilities except the village church school have disappeared. In our vision, the church will once again be a location for the whole village, providing, in close co-operation with the village community centre, the focal point for the community life through activities such as the Mothers´ Union, a toddlers group, etc.
Outreach to the community
With better facilities, the church building will be able to offer a location for outreach to people in the village and beyond through alternative services – like Messy Church, Sunday Club, Breakfast Morning, Praise Service, as well as the Youth Group and Open the Book for Palgrave School,which requires space to move around comfortably and safely. All these activities require the availability of a toilet and baby-changing facilities.
Compliance with the Disability and Discrimination Act
It goes without saying that we need to comply with the current laws and regulations, but we believe it goes further than this. As a public institution, we clearly need to have the facilities and accessibility for all members of the public. Given the fact that part of our mission as Christians is to help disadvantaged people in our community, we need to make sure that the church building offers the necessary facilities to be a welcoming space.
The project we envisage implementing will have a number of phases (exact sequencing to be finalised with the architect to ensure efficient working, and depending on funding):
- Urgent repair work on the roof. The work on the north roof of the church started in April 2013 and was completed in July. Repairs to the masonry on the south porch have been carried out.
- Facilitating welcoming and fellowship, and to allow more flexible use of the space, e.g. through the removal of pews at the back of church and in the north aisle. The building of a toilet in the north porch, and the construction of a kitchen unit.
- Improving the comfort level and ambiance within the building and includes lighting, heating, the sound system and the chancel chapel. Moving the font.