What stage is the spaceforall project currently at?
Planning permission has been granted, and the church authorities have approved the project, a faculty has been granted. We are moving into the phase of intense fundraising in the hope of letting a contract as soon as possible in 2021 and completing the first phase of work this year.
Why is the spaceforall project necessary given that there is The Cornerstone, a modern centre, next to the church?
The Cornerstone is different. It is a busy community centre with offices and halls that are hired out to local community groups. Also, it has limited spare capacity and is often full. The demand for the Cornerstone demonstrates that there is a need for more community facilities in the town, and the town is expanding. This project will offer complementary spaces of a different kind, including a spacious area for both worship and larger community events, as well as two meeting rooms.
What impact would the refurbishment have on church services?
It does not need to affect the character of services and current worship will continue in the familiar format. However, the refurbishment will allow opportunities for other formats as well, for example, worship in the round, café worship, “Messy Church” and more room for meditative worship in separate smaller spaces.
Won’t the church building become a place of entertainment rather than a place of prayer?
No. This is not the intention of this project. We will always protect the Church’s integrity as a holy place and ensuring it remains a home for Christian worship. As part of the Christian ethos, it is also intended to be a resource for the local community, able to support a wide range of local requirements.
What might the church be used for, other than worship?
We want to see the building be available as a drop-in centre for a whole range of activities, often happening simultaneously. It will provide space for local voluntary groups to offer support to those who drop in for a chat, whether single parents, the elderly or people working from home, providing a significant increase to the health and well-being of the community in Wokingham.
Activities such as shared breakfasts, and toddlers’ storytime are among uses and it will provide space for “pop up” activities which could be a local library hub, or book swap, a craft shop or knit and natter club, enabling a much wider range of people to take part in these activities in their neighbourhood.
It will offer an inspiring space for concerts, lectures, exhibitions, conferences and seminars in a building with modern facilities whilst retaining the atmosphere and acoustics of the old. This will enable more local people to benefit from the church building and bring more people from further afield into Wokingham. A small secluded chapel for private prayer will be retained with its own independent entrance, ensuring the church is still a place of prayer at all times.
Will the building only be available to people who are connected with the church?
No, it will welcome local people from all backgrounds.
Part of the vision is to be accessible to all; how is this reflected in the plans?
The plans include permanent access for wheelchairs and buggies through a new level-access door; improving the approach to the West door; a WC which is accessible for wheelchair users without leaving the building; a new sound reinforcement system with hearing loop, and new brighter lighting.
Why should we have toilets and a kitchen in the church?
These meet the priorities of welcome and accessibility. A public building without integral toilet facilities is not acceptable today. Families with babies and young children and others with mobility issues cannot be expected to cross the churchyard in all weathers. A simple kitchen and servery within the building enables the church to offer hospitality and ensures full use of the Cornerstone facility is not impeded by the needs of events in the church building. Having these facilities within the church building increases the range of activities for which the building might be used.
Will we be keeping the pews?
No, these will be replaced with suitable chairs to allow more flexibility and greater comfort. A small number of the existing pews will be retained as a record of part of the church’s history
Will there be enough seating if we take out the pews?
There should be at least 400 seats in any of the options whilst the diversity of layouts may allow for increased numbers to meet exceptional demand. For children, there may be other solutions eg low benches.
How will the changes ensure that the history of the church is retained?
Parts of the church have considerable historical significance and care will be taken to preserve these for future generations. As a listed building we can do nothing of which Historic England disapprove, and as a listed church. Any change we make has to be approved by the diocese.
There is already a record of the monuments written by local historian Jim Bell and a virtual tour of the church, courtesy of Rodney Hart, and photographs will be taken before and after the refurbishment of details such as the West entrance and south porch to ensure that we have a record of all the changes. Examples of the existing pews and floor layout will be retained / on display. Research into the church’s history continues and will be available to visitors. By the end of the project far more will be known about the church than previously. We will be developing a heritage trail for the church and the churchyard from the point of view of the people as much as the buildings, looking at the history of town and church and the connections between the two, the development of the church as a worshipping community and at the people who worshipped on the church or were buried in the churchyard.
What will happen to the organ?
The replacement of the current organ is being handled separately, but its location, and that of the choir is being incorporated in this project. A free-standing instrument positioned at the east end of the north aisle is planned.
Can the carpet in the chancel be removed for better acoustics?
Yes, the carpet will be removed as will the current fixed platform. The nave floor and Lady Chapel floors will be of Ancaster stone and the chancel floor will be at least partly tiled.
Does the pulpit stay where it is?
The pulpit may be moved slightly to accommodate the new position of the organ. This would return the pulpit to where it was around 1840.
Will a dais be needed?
Yes, there will be a dais, but it will be smaller and moveable.
Won’t the pillars still be in the way?
Yes, but they will be redecorated and can then be made to look beautiful and a feature. Use of unobtrusive tv screens will allow obstructed views to be overcome where necessary.
Will screens replace hymns books and printed material at the church services?
Not completely. Screens may work alongside printed booklets. Many churches have found the use of screens gives greater flexibility and a larger range of material that can be used in services. A screen is used already at Family Services to display song words and images, saving costs in paper and printing. Service sheets and hymn books will not be banned! Some may want to take advantage of the lower cost and reduced carbon footprint which screens offer.
Is the aim to provide a youth-centric church?
The intention is to improve the comfort, flexibility of use and accessibility of the building so that it can be enjoyed by people of all age groups.
How much will this project cost?
It is expected that the total cost will be in the region of £3,000,000, but in the first phase the cost is about half this
Where will the money come from?
The church has about £220,000 on deposit from legacies but the majority of the funding will come from grants. Of course, we certainly hope that there will be many local people who will be inspired by the vision and want to contribute.
How does this contribute to the church’s mission to help the poor?
It makes the building more accessible to all sectors of the whole community and enables a wider range of socially supportive activities in addition to traditional worship. The drop-in nature of the café is a very important part of the project.
Won’t a refurbished church cost more for heating and lighting?
More efficient heating and lighting should mean it actually will cost less even if open more. The building will be in use more than it is now, and in some cases, this will also be increasing income.
Will everything be done at once?
Ideally it would be, and it would cost less if it were, but following the Coronavirus outbreak we believe the best way forward is to phase the project, concentrating on opening the building as a community space as soon as possble in 2021. Most of the refurbishment work will require the church to be closed. To restrict this to a minimum a single coherent plan is necessary, and then it may be possible to undertake particular work packages in isolation or concurrently as funds become available or to meet particular needs.
Will the church be unavailable during the refurbishment work?
Disruption to the normal working of the church will be kept to a minimum but there will be a period of approximately 10 months when we will not be able to use the church building. During that time, our regular services will continue as far as possible, but in different locations. For example, all the Sunday services can be held in The Cornerstone.
Will any of the existing graves need to be moved as a result of the building work?
A small number of older memorial stones may have to be moved. Every effort will be made to locate and contact the families of those who are buried there.
What will happen to the graves that will be under the new parish room?
We have identified twelve graves that will be affected by either the Parish Room or the link corridor. All but two of them are more than 100 years old.
We are currently in the process of photographing and listing the details of those memorials. We will then seek permission from either the erector of the memorial or heirs of the person commemorated.
The foundations for the Parish Room will be built on top of the ground using a floating slab technique so that the remains themselves will not be disturbed. The memorial stones will be moved to another nearby area of the All Saints churchyard.
Will there be coffee facilities in the refurbished church?
There will be a servery where refreshments could be prepared to provide a facility for the immediate local community and visitors to the church, after worship or in connection with events.
How many people will the Parish Room seat?
It should be able to seat around 40 people, which will make it suitable for small, informal worship groups, church meetings… etc.
Will access to the church be improved?
The existing cobblestone walkway at the west door will be replaced by a more even surface thus making it easier to walk on. The ramp in the west porch will be removed. In addition, there will be a new door on the north side of the building with level access to make it accessible for wheelchair and pushchair users.
Will the refurbished building offer any new employment opportunities?
Employment opportunities may include caretaking, cleaning, furniture moving etc. Through the additional use opportunities it will create, demand will be stimulated locally for the services of professional event organisers, conference managers, printers, caterers etc.