Personal perspectives

Candle



I wonder, can you imagine the All Saints Community Church of the future?
Is it a loving place, where people are growing in faith, active in the community and welcoming to all?

Imagine for a moment you enter the door at the back into a warm and welcoming place. The smell of freshly brewed coffee from the servery hits you as you enter the building. A friendly face greets you at the welcome desk. You immediately notice that the building is well lit and bright with colour from a local art exhibition hanging on the walls.

You notice that around the small tables at the back of Church a group of local residents are sitting together enjoying the stillness and beauty of the place whilst also taking a moment to catch up on the news of the day. They are mixed ages and some look really glad to have a nice comfortable place to come and meet with friends; they are really looking forward to the friendship lunch today.

As you move into the café area you notice another group of people gathered around a table together they all look relieved to be out of the cold having just had a warm cup of tea and a good chat with some of the Church volunteers.

You are amazed at the mix of people making the most of the Church building during the week and notice that everyone you meet seems to feel welcome, warm and relaxed.

You are aware of the gentle chatter of a group of volunteers as they work together to make a simple lunch and offer friendship, prayer and support to those who come.

As you continue to look around the Church you think what a busy place this and there is so much to join in with. You are reminded that it is Christian Aid week and you notice that tomorrow there is a Christian Aid lunch in the Church. By the door there is a box full of food: it must be for the local foodbank.

From a side entrance you notice a local youth worker just coming into the building ready to meet with some local young people; what a great place to meet them and for them to hang out after School.

One of the Clergy team rushes past you out of their office to chat with people in the café area; they seem to point to the notice boards and grab an Ipad to point out the website with all the activities taking place during the week.

After a quick chat you notice that the clergy person moves to the dais in the middle of the church to prepare for the short mid-day Eucharist.

Moving on past the welcome area you begin to notice what a beautiful open space this is and you begin to think that it must be a wonderful space for the performing arts groups in the town, local schools to use, and for concerts. And then you pause for a moment to consider how wonderful worship must be with all this space to appreciate the awe-inspiring beauty and stillness of the environment.

It must create great space for all age worship on a Sunday and be so comfortable for older people with such nice chairs and space to see.

As you get towards the front of the Church there is a group of young parents and toddlers with lots of room for soft play equipment. They all seem to be enjoying having a nice place to meet together. You notice that they are discussing whether or not to go along to Messy Church next week: it's happening in the Church building, and all about the parenting courses being run by the Mothers Union in the café area next week.

Before you leave you notice a small group of people having a quiet time of reflective prayer in a small side room. How brilliant to have such a lovely space set aside for daily prayer in the midst of a Church being used for so many things.

As you leave the building you might give thanks for the signs of life, love and energy you can see in this beautiful place. It is busy but you sense God's presence and that this is a holy place. So you feel hopeful and glad that the All Saints Church of the future looks so vibrant, full, and alive, and you pray that it will always be a place where people are on a journey with God and you are glad that they seem to have found a place of love and Christ's welcome.

The Reverend Anna Harwood



I've heard that you are considering changing the seating and layout in church. I hope you don't!
Why do you say that?

It's not a proper church without pews, is it? There have always been pews in church!

Maybe in our lifetime, but historically, things were very different. In mediaeval times, there were no seats at all and people had to stand or kneel to pray all through the Mass. The old and infirm had to prop themselves up against the walls-many churches had ledges around the wall to support them. The nave of the church was used for processions and activities in the service: the word, "carol" comes from a word that means, "a dance in a ring"; people would dance around the pillars as they sang. Seats would just have got in the way! Church was also used for secular functions. Both church and churchyard were used to hold markets, fairs and the sale of specially brewed church ales... now there's an idea!

So when did seats appear in churches?
By the mid thirteenth century, the church hierarchy disapproved of holding these noisy events in church but the churchyard was still used, being one of the few public spaces in the community. Seats began to be provided, at first people brought their own but later there were seats, which in time were fixed to the floor. By the 1600s and 1700s,pews were being used because the service revolved around a lengthy sermon so more comfortable seating than rough benches was wanted.

Pews have lasted all that time, then?
Yes, but in different forms. Pews could be rented out to the better-off members of the congregation, leaving their poorer brethren to sit on benches at the back or take themselves off to chapel, this enforced social differences and so was not universally liked or approved. Later, box pews came in, and we had them here at All Saints as you can see in the engraving (1863) that hangs in the vestry: there's a copy of it on the CC2020 notice board at the back of the church. The Mayor and congregation had a velvet-lined pew with an impressive table in the centre! Box pews gave privacy and greater comfort but led to irreverence and there was the distraction that they obscured the sight of the altar and the sound of the service. When a group of churchmen called the Ecclesiologists arose in about 1841,they insisted that all pews should be low, facing the east end of the church and therefore, the altar. They decreed that the altar should be raised on steps and the chancel raised two or three steps above the nave: this explains why many old churches have Victorian tiled floors, like ours. Our current pews are not truly old; they were installed in 1923 after the previous pitch pine pews were eaten by dry rot, along with the floor and joists. Modern churches use various forms of seating, chairs and pews, most of which are easily moved and comfortable and stable to sit on which for many people is not their experience of our current pews.

So if it was decided many years ago to stop holding events in church, why are we considering it now?
The main consideration is that our church is primarily a place of worship, open for private prayer and for services just as it is now. However, with more modern seating that can be moved, the body of the church could be used for exhibitions and group activities, allowing church to become a central part of the community again.

And church will still be principally used for services, like always?
Services yes-but not like always, in mediaeval times marriages often took place in the porch, as did business transactions! As you said, we are just at the thinking stage: share your thoughts and ideas with us and we will continue to research these issues and in time, discuss them full with the congregation and the community.

BOOKS CONSULTED INCLUDE:
Richard Taylor, "How to read a church"
Simon Jenkins, "England's Thousand Best Churches"
Brian L Harris, "Harris's Guide to churches and cathedrals"
Richard Hayman, "A concise guide to the parish church"
P and T Clowney, "Exploring churches"
Edwin Smith, "English parish churches"
John Clemetson, "Life of a parish church"
J. Neave, "History of All Saints Wokingham"



Many respondents to the recent options survey asked why we needed to adapt the church in a major refurbishment programme when we have The Cornerstone 20 metres away. In this article we hope to give you some of the answers.

Many of the changes are to make the church a more flexible place for worship. It is of course feasible to hold services in a community hall, but really not desirable if you have the option of a beautiful church. Also, the roof and pillars of the church need repair and disabled access, heating, lighting, audio, visual and IT provision need to be improved in the church anyway.

But at the centre of most people's questions is the provision of toilets, servery and spaces for community activities, like a café.

The church is a public building and public buildings these days are expected to have toilets and to be able to provide refreshments. This is just part of a normal pattern of development: we no longer expect to walk across the yard to the cold privy, as was the norm eighty years ago, nor do people now expect to cross the churchyard.

People coming to church for weddings, funerals, baptisms and concerts have often travelled long distances and whilst the single toilet at the end of the Cornerstone is always unlocked for them, there is only one and it is not easy to find particularly in the dark. But the most pressing issue is with school children. Because of safeguarding concerns, school children cannot use the toilets in the main part of the building without adequate supervision, and they must be escorted across the churchyard, come rain or shine, taking valuable staff time.

But the way we "do church" is changing. It is not just about worship, formal or informal and specific pastoral encounters:

It's about exhibitions (like the F word exhibition), lectures (like John Bell) and performances whether of St John Passion or by the Tibetan Monks. It's about being there for people demonstrating the love of God.

It's about opportune encounters over a cup of coffee, and about providing a place where you can linger in the warm without challenge. We have been rightly proud of being open seven days a week but we want to do more than offer a quiet place for prayer. We want to offer that AND a hospitable place where people can drop in and conversations can develop. The Cornerstone was not built to provide that and would need a very big change to achieve it.

And a few more things: we are not expecting to provide a kitchen. The Cornerstone has one. But we do want to be able to provide hot and cold drinks and hot snacks from a microwave, and to make it easier for people to come and cater at events.

The church is much bigger than The Cornerstone, and whether with chairs or pews can seat 400 for a service and over 200 sitting around tables for a seminar or celebration meal.

The Cornerstone is full most weekdays, and we have to turn down most requests for hall hire after funerals. And just think how nice it would be to stay in the same warm building after the service.

Last but by no means least, the town is growing and all the pressures on The Cornerstone will grow.

Anne King



The building viewed from the outside gives no impression of great age. Most of the building was substantially rebuilt by Henry Woodyer and completed around 1864. Woodyer was also responsible for the design and building of St Paul's in 1864.

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The exterior impression suggests there would appear to be little time difference in the two buildings making both buildings visually about 150 years old. However records show there has been a building named All Saints on the same site since the 12th Century (somewhere between 1100~1199 AD).

Inside All Saints church there is again little immediate evidence of great age. Woodyer was responsible for the enlarging of the Chancel, the lengthening of the South aisle, the East end would eventually become the Lady Chapel, raising of the floor by 12 inches (30cm) to accommodate heating pipes and the grills over them and removal of almost all post medieval features. It was regarded as one of Woodyer's 'best projects'1 though also 'one of his most heavy handed restorations.'2 He was 'unfettered by the niceties of architectural history and the constraints of conservative restoration'.3

The historical evidence of a medieval building that does remain are the bases of the pillars which are of Norman design. Woodyer reduced the visible evidence by raising the floor level but enough is still visible to suggest the foundations are of a much older building. Many of the pillars are of chalk, a material that would have been locally available to medieval builders. Chalk can also be seen at the base of the inside frame to the South door which was obviously overlooked by Woodyer! The small door within the tower that leads up to the ringing chamber is of oak and has been dated as medieval. Records indicate All Saints was Dedicated by the Bishop of Salisbury, Hubert Walter, between 1189 ~ 1193 making the church at least 825 years old in 2018.

John Hook

Sources:
1 John Elliot, 'Woodyer, Henry (1816-1896)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/38392, accessed 3 June 2017]
2 John Elliot and Steve Atkinson (eds), Henry Woodyer: Gentleman Architect, University of Reading 2002 p.68
3 Ibid p.69
Other sources - All Saints Church, Wokingham



Triple Decker Pulpit

Before 1860 renovation

After 1860 renovation

1832
 

1923 - New floor laid.

1985 - Reredos uncovered from beneath a curtain and cleaned.

1820 including Corporation Pew