An exciting new scheme for the development of our church building is now taking shape. Over the past two years a team of experts has focussed on determining the best way to provide the facilities we need to flourish today and in the future, while also enhancing the whole building.

In early 2019 a Governance Group was formed to oversee the project. This has been drawing on the expertise of several volunteers in our congregation and the local community with experience in planning, engineering, project management, grant applications and the wide range of other skills needed.

Just over a year ago, a specialist assessment of the significant heritage features of our beautiful church was completed to provide the basis for all future planning (this is called the Conservation Management Plan). Since then, the team has been busy defining our requirements, preparing a design brief, appointing an architect and consultant team – including heritage, archaeological, engineering and cost consultants – and ensuring costs are carefully managed. This has been done with PCC approval at each stage and in regular consultation with the Diocesan authorities.

Following exploration of a variety of concept design options with the architect, a preferred scheme is now taking shape. We have received permission from the Diocese to excavate trial pits in a few key areas of the churchyard to investigate the archaeology that would be encountered. With the information from these excavations, we look forward to beginning consultations shortly with the congregation, local organisations and wider community – as well as the statutory bodies such as Richmond Council and Historic England – to collect feedback on the proposed scheme. We very much hope everyone will share our enthusiasm for it.

Progress over the past four months has inevitably been hindered by the coronavirus pandemic, but we have been able to maintain good momentum. In our latest plans, we aim to submit a formal planning application to Richmond Council early next year with a view to beginning fundraising as soon as permission is granted. All being well, construction work will begin in 2021.

Rev. Joe Moffatt says: "Our ambition is to equip our much-loved church building with the facilities to be an inclusive sacred space and community resource, meeting both the needs of our congregation and of our community.

“We intend to re-order and extend our church building to make it fit for purpose in the 21st century and beyond: fit to be a sacred space that is accessible to all, regardless of disability or need; fit to offer a hospitable welcome to all who enter the door; fit to be a community resource where groups can meet for learning and fellowship; fit to be the building we need to fulfil our vision to ‘grow faith and friendship for all’.

"So this is about more than just toilets. This is about making our contribution to the 800-year history of our church which has been added to every century. Every generation has done their bit to ensure the building is fit for purpose for their own particular time. We feel strongly that our task is to develop our facilities in a way that will enable the whole church (both the building and the people) to bring faith and friendship to all.”