I struggle with the space in which I worship – a 160 year old church sandwiched between two main roads. It’s not the architecture as such, although the paintwork leaves a bit to be desired… It’s mostly the furniture. Large wooden pews fill the nave from front to back and although I love to show visiting school parties the ‘Mousey Thompson’ mice, it just seems a bit of a waste. We have large plain glass windows which flood the nave with light – it would make a wonderful art gallery. Many a day I have spent plotting the demise of those pews to make way for theatre, music, art and culture… perhaps even dancing but I’d probably stand at the back.
Reordering this particular building is not likely to happen in a hurry as we have the rather wonderful parish hall next door but there’s something about being in sacred space and using it for a variety of expressions of worship.
I got to thinking about this while reading about BrightFarms, a company that designs and builds hydroponic greenhouses near supermarkets to greatly reduce foodmiles. They have taken to building these green houses on the roofs of massive supermarkets which I think is genius.
There are of course examples of churches, cathedrals even who have reordered their furniture (or ditched it altogether) to provide a flexible space for a variety of events. A great example is Gloucester cathedral which I had the pleasure of exploring last summer during a night for Greenbelt contributors.
I understand the need to keep some level of traditional aesthetic to parish churches for weddings etc but I do struggle with keeping things just because they’ve always been there. Let’s lighten up a bit, make a few quid selling the old stuff and make our churches places where people feel welcome with modern conveniences for a variety of uses.