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Church vision is gaining support

PUBLISHED: 10:49 08 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:07 03 July 2010

Liz Coates

The Gorleston vicar whose suggestion about removing church pews sent shockwaves through the community said this week that more and more people were coming round to the idea.

The Gorleston vicar whose suggestion about removing church pews sent shockwaves through the community said this week that more and more people were coming round to the idea.

The Rev Tony Ward's comments came as he prepared to stage an exhibition and host open evenings to give people the chance to air their views on the proposed reordering of St Andrew's Church, which includes replacing Victorian fixed seating with stacking chairs arranged in an arc.

Mr Ward said that, since he first voiced his vision more than two years ago, many of those who had held their hands up against the idea were embracing it.

Fundraising for the £500,000 project will begin once official permission is granted by the diocese - he hopes in the next few months - with the timetable for work depending on how quickly money from grants, gifts, legacies and other sources comes in.

“A lot of people are on a journey with this idea. Initially people thought: 'Shock, horror!' But, when they've looked at other churches that have been reordered to make them more welcoming, flexible and adaptable, a lot of people have come from quite entrenched positions to say: 'We must do this.' It takes time and, in some cases, years,” said Mr Ward.

“It is a fabulous space, and we would like to open it up. All you can do is sit there and face the front. A huge proportion is trapped under fixed wooden seating which is not right for the 2010s.

“When the Victorians reordered in 1872 there was a very strong community outside the church and people supported each other more, so we have got to try and re-create a comm-unity inside. As a church, we need to wrestle with this and, to be fair, not everyone in the church is in favour of it. We want everyone in Gorleston to have a chance to have their say.”

Mr Ward said existing oak pews would be disposed of in a sensitive way when, and if, the time came and he hoped people visiting the exhibition at Gorleston Library would be excited by the project before them.

“I hope they will say that, although they do not come every Sunday, it is their church and that they will want to have their say,” he added.

Planned changes and additions include having a glass lobby, a tiled floor with under-floor heating, a better audio-visual system and a complete rewiring and relighting. Hundreds of leaflets handed out to churchgoers over Christ-mas drew only positive responses, Mr Ward said.

A display at Gorleston library continues for at least another week. Open evenings are being held at the church on Tuesday, January 19 and Thursday, January 21 at 7.30pm. Write to: The Rev Tony Ward, St Andrew's Vicarage, Duke Road, Gorleston, NR31 6LL.


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