The Parochial Church Council has been investigating the possibility of building a small extension on to St Agatha’s church to house a toilet and washing facilities. The need for this, after centuries of managing without such conveniences, has come about as follows:
Why we need this!
Church expenses continue to rise year by year for just the basic running costs. But before we get round to paying the heating bills and keeping the roof in good order, there is the annual parish share to be met which this year will amount to £19,861.
As a reminder, and for the benefit of those who perhaps do not know how this works, the parish share is the sum we pay to the Oxford Diocese to help pay clergy stipends and pensions, and maintain the vicarages.
If St Agatha’s is to continue being here, at the heart of the village, providing a place not only for worship, baptisms, weddings and funerals, but also a very special environment in which all can find comfort in times of need or trouble - then it is clear that we need to find ways of increasing church income.
We feel that this could be achieved by making more use of this historic and very beautiful old building. Centuries ago, long before the advent of village halls, the church would have been the only building big enough in which to hold any kind of meeting or get-together for the villagers. Back then, the rood screen (no longer there) kept the altar and chancel area separate from the nave, which would have been used as necessary at the time.
We are not proposing to return to using the church as a market! - but musical events, concerts, small art exhibitions - all could be suitable in a church venue, if handled correctly. In the past we have indeed held quite a few concerts at St Agatha’s, but we have to keep the duration down to about one hour as the need for a toilet often arises. Better facilities would also enable us to expand the work we do with the children, for instance full days of creativity, music and drama during the school holidays. A ‘pram’ service for mums with babies or toddlers would also be good.
Nowadays, many of the people attending baptisms, weddings or funerals will have come a fair distance and this highlights another reason for having a toilet within the church area. Even during our regular church services, the ‘need’ can arise. We cannot always rely on the kindness of Janice Chilton to throw her own house open, nor is it always convenient to use the Village Hall.
We have also identified the need for a small but improved kitchen area. There are a number of options as to where this would be sited. The existing oil tank (outside) is nearing the end of its life. Changing from oil to gas heating would free up a good-sized space in the north-east corner, where the boiler is currently housed inside a cupboard.
There are obviously many decisions yet to be made as to the best way of achieving all the above, but the PCC felt it important that the village should be aware of our plans at this stage.
What we have done so far!
A few months ago we had a meeting at the church with representatives from English Heritage, the Diocesan Advisory Committee and SODC Conservation Office. It was quickly established that we would not be able to knock through any of the medieval walls but that we stood a good chance of getting permission for a small porch-like extension off the existing south door. We also involved the Oxford Diocesan Archaeological Advisor who had no real concerns about our extension and was very helpful in suggesting ways of construction that would cause the least ground disturbance.
Subsequently, we received a letter of support from the Diocesan Advisory Committee, subject, of course, to any final drawings and plans. This was very encouraging.
Now we shall have to seek further advice from various experts and get some idea of costs. This extension and the other alterations will obviously be a major undertaking for us and although there will be (hopefully!) some grants available, we shall still have to raise a very large sum ourselves. To this end, and when we have finalised our plans and have costings available, we sincerely hope that we will be able to gain the support of the village, to help us with this major project.
The Parochial Church Council of St Agatha’s and St James’, Brightwell-cum-Sotwell