It’s official… notice came through on Thursday that St Andrew’s has been designated one of around 300 “Major Parish Churches” in the country.
The application was urged by the Mission and Pastoral folk in the Diocesan office – and they greatly helped us through the whole application process.
First question is: “What does that mean?”
Immediately; nothing! It doesn’t mean that St Andrew’s is suddenly greater or more special or more important than it was last week.
To become a “Major Church”, you need to be large (1,000 sq metres) and have a role to play that is not just as a meeting place for parishioners. There are a number of other criteria and the London-based Church Buildings Council considered all that we had to offer. St Andrew’s was deemed to fit the criteria (though it is a tad too small, they say) and was admitted to the “club”.
So why the joy?
First of all – there are grants available to Cathedrals and Major Churches that are closed to others. There’s one such grant open now – and we are pulling out all the stops to get our bid in before Friday. Putting together a major bid like this normally takes months, We now have five days… Fortunately, a great deal of the groundwork has already been done (largely by Louise) and, provided the architect comes up with the figures, we should be good to go – but it is going to be a very tight finish.
Secondly and probably more importantly, there is help and encouragement to lead us into full Major Church mode. Some changes will be easy. We are told, for example, that a Major Church must be open for visitors every day. (It’s what the insurance company has been telling us for a long time!) There are things to sort out (a bit of security organisation and a workable scheme to lock and unlock the building overnight) but we hope that will be in place soon.
We are asked to set up a CMP. A Conservation Management Plan for the building allows everyone to agree on the values and significance of the church. It can help the success of grant applications etc. and it fits comfortably in the framework of the project that we are already planning, to agree on a plan to revitalise and preserve a much-loved building from further decay.
Thursday’s announcement offers us a really exciting opportunity to edge the door open on a new and achievable chapter in the 1,200 year story of Christianity on this site.