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Reshaping our Church

Photograph showing the newly rebuilt tower from the 1890s

What are we here for?

How best can we live out our calling, both as worshippers of God and as service to our community?

View of the interior of St Mary's Church

Update January 2024

“The church is a beautiful historic building but …

it has to be looking forward not back if it is to be relevant today.”

That’s a powerful statement and just one of the responses to the conversations we’ve been having with the people of Tetbury:  asking you to imagine how the church building might better serve and support the community, and what’s needed make that possible.

Meeting last month, St Marys’ trustees - Parochial Church Council (PCC) - had a chance to review what you said.  Most importantly, we heard how much people value the St Marys’.  As one person said:  “The church has the community as its heart.  It acts as a hub to cater for the spiritual needs of Tetbury residents.  It has a lead to stand up for religious, cultural and spiritual values.”

And this role at the heart of our community has been clear in past months, with services that draw in young and old alike:  from 300+ people gathering on Remembrance Sunday, to over 600 folk sharing in the services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

But it is clear that – when it comes to our building – we need to adapt to survive.  Currently we lack the most basic facilities:  the “kitchen” and “parish office” are little more than cupboards, with one toilet that is hard to access, and no appropriate spaces for meetings or storage.  The heating is ineffective and eco-unfriendly.  And – with fixed box pews – there is no flexibility for either community use or gathering together for worship.

As one person wrote:  “As an old Tetburian - christened, confirmed and married at St Marys’ - much as I like the pews, they do keep people segregated.  To survive, the building has to update and be used as much as possible.”  That means finding or creating a space that is welcoming, accessible, comfortable, serviceable, sustainable and flexible.

Carefully considering your views, the PCC then looked at a number of options, including leaving St Marys’ and moving to another building.  Of all the possibilities, our lovely St Saviour’s Church was of course the most popular alternative.  In the event, however, the PCC was concerned that it is simply too small to accommodate big community services or the modern facilities needed.  So, this was put on hold for the time being.

This means, as the next step, the PCC will investigate further the possibilities of adapting the existing building.  There are huge challenges – from gaining permissions to change this Grade 1 listed building, to raising the funds needed.  So, we’ll be taking initial advice from experts including architects and heating engineers, to be reviewed in May.  Do please continue to support your church, and the dream to make this wonderful iconic building fit for the future, and equipped serve Tetbury in God’s name.

With love and prayers, Poppy

The Revd Canon Poppy Hughes
Parish Priest, St Mary the Virgin & St Mary Magdalen Church, Tetbury

 

Our conversations with church members as well as individuals, groups and businesses in the wider community finished in mid-October 2023. Thank you to the 120+ returns, which we know represented far more people than that. So, what emerged?

The church is valued as a beautiful and peaceful space for quiet prayer as well as communal worship with – for many – a need for more flexibility to use this space creatively.  Equally we’re seen as a place of service to the community. There’s also a sense we have a role to play in Tetbury as a safe space, warm, welcoming and accessible to every single person. There’s a need for flexible meeting spaces, enhanced catering facilities, more adequate toilets and comfortable heating. We also need to be eco-friendly and sustainable.

What happens next? We’re currently involved in drawing all the thoughts and suggestions into a Report to go, in draft form, to the church’s body the Parochial Church Council, in January 2024, along with a range of other information about the building and wider stakeholders. The members will set out some further thoughts for investigation before a final Report is presented to them in March 2024, when they will decide a small number of Options (probably two) to take to the next stage involving more detailed planning with architects, heritage bodies, the Diocese and many more.

All this is in the context of seeking how we might best continue the almost 1500 years of evolving church and responding to the call of God for the coming decades as we potentially get back to the open spaces of earlier ages while still respecting our history and heritage.

We’ll keep updating on progress throughout this time.

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