St Michael’s Church – a point of view

A couple of months ago, an e-mail was sent to members of The Camberley Society, drawing their attention to the proposed modernisation of St Michael’s Church on the London Road. 

The church has provided an explanation of what it wants to do.

Not everyone agrees with the plans.  One member of the society has written expressing concern:

“We are pleased that Bruce completed his walk to Holy Island and is safely home.

It is worth commenting however that it is not generally accepted that the St Michael’s ‘Renewal Project’ represents ‘preservation, protection and improvement’ to this unique traditional Victorian church – the only one of its type in Camberley.

Many associated with St Michael’s church consider those plans to be ill founded and destructive of much of the character of the church. In particular, the ripping out of the traditional interior with its pews and choir stalls in order to make space for community events, leaving only a few token pews, is not broadly supported. Indeed it is considered by many to be a pointless and destructive step.

People who now choose to hold their weddings at St Michael’s as opposed to more convenient churches which have been ‘done over’ in the way now envisaged  have commented that ‘it is lovely to have the wedding in a traditional church’. They are unlikely to make such comments in future.

The very expensive glass box planned to replace the fairly nondescript but mostly functional late 20th century church hall is also not accepted by all as being the best that can be achieved nor good value for money.

I do wonder whether the Camberley Society actually knows what is going on here. The ‘Renewal’ brochure to which you refer does not tell the full story.”

So, an obvious question.  Should the society support or oppose the proposals?  Do click on the link above, and find out more, then let us know.

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12 thoughts on “St Michael’s Church – a point of view

  1. People travel miles to see beautiful, old, traditional cathedrals and churches, and I do not agree with modernising St. Michael’s. I would also hate to see the pews disappear, which are a comforting part of our heritage.

    • Thanks Denise. I’m not going to offer any opinion – I’m hoping that others will feel free to say what they think.

  2. We were recently in Lichfield Cathdral which was busy with tourists despite having the interior seating and spaces completely disrupted for a series of concerts. Of course, medieval churches were not built to house pews and choir stalls but Victorian churches were. However the later churches were designed for a very different congregation to the one they have now and services continue to evolve, I believe. The removal of the pews seems to be a ‘step too far’ for many but if it prevents the community from fading away it may be a sacrifice worth making?

  3. Thank you for your comments – its good to hear all points of view. However there are a few points I’d like to clarify. Yes we are planning on replacing the pews but they won’t be replaced by “a few token pews”: the plan at the moment is to have pews with matching chairs at the sides. The congregation will not all be sitting on chairs! The layout of the seating is still up for debate so we’d like to hear ideas of what people would find most useful and attractive. The interior isn’t being “ripped out”. We are going to get rid of the internal steps to make it easier for everyone to walk around and return the door to the hall back to the window it originally was. The new doors into the hall are going to be built into the wall and when closed should be much less noticeable than the current doorway.

    We know people have weddings at St Michael’s because of the way it looks and there is no way the new interior will be changed to some non-descript modernist thing – it will always be a “brides church”.

    As for the hall, I appreciate not everyone likes the new design but, even ignoring the church, the hall is in desperate need rebuilding: its too small, too difficult to access; too difficult to keep clean and too expensive to heat.

    With any work like this there is always a conflict between the regular users of the building and the wider community. So I’d like to ask you to do a couple of things. Firstly, I can arrange for Bruce to give a short presentation on the plans – I can’t help feeling that from your comments there are some misconceptions about them. Secondly I’d like to invite you to come along to the 10:30 service on Sundays and use the building. You may be happy with the pews after sitting on them for an hour or two and happy with the hall after a cup of coffee in there but then at least we can talk face to face and make sure that we understand each others point of view.

    Sue Helliwell
    Member of St Michael’s Church
    Member of the Camberley Society

  4. As a member of St Michael’s congregation, my personal opinion is that those people who oppose the renewal of the building are dooming it to destruction. The congregation is small and ageing. Unless we do something now, then within a generation the church will have to be sold off: the best we can hope for is that the inside will be gutted and converted into flats so at least it is preserved as a shell.

    So if you are interested in the building, come along and get involved. If you just sit on the side-lines bemoaning how St Michael’s are getting rid of the pews then don’t be surprised when, in twenty years, the church has been sold off to developers and the congregation have moved to something smaller, more practical and cheaper to maintain.

      • Crossrail involves digging up an old Bedlam cemetery, I think. I suspect it’s not consecrated ground, but I’ve read that the remains will be re-buried in an established graveyard after some academic/archaeological study.

  5. Having not yet seen the plans its a bit hard to comment but generally its clear that the church has, as a previous comment stated, ageing and declining congregations and it can be argued that many in the community are losing their way, morals are declining and so forth. Therefore in my view the church effectively has a duty to change and appeal to the wider community and embrace the 21st century. I hope the proposed renewel of St Michael’s goes some way towards this

    • You know, Bob, school did me a great dis-service. Quite a few of the text books I used came in two versions; one for the pupils, and one for the master. The latter had the answers in the back. Which taught me that questions have answers! Trouble is, in the real world, I’ve got the pupils’ edition, and I search for the master’s edition in vain.

    • Bob, can you expand on what your point is? Jesus made a radical change to the temple by effectively making sacrifices during passover impossible so are you supporting the changes to St Michael’s where we get rid of the unnessary accouterments and focus again on what a church should be?

      Matt

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