The information on this page is presented as a group of panels. To access the various sections select the tab of the panel you would like to view.
- Letter from the Vicar
- Main features
- The Committee
IntroductionThe Re-Ordering project has been in the planning and discussion stage for many years.
You can read some of the rationale behind the project from the letter that Zachary, the Vicar issued to members of the congregation in 2008. This is presented on the second panel.
The main features of the project are displayed on the third panel. You will find more information about each of these on the slideshow attached to this page, and through bulletins on the subject.
The fourth panel provides a list of the Committee members, who are available to provide further information and to take note of your views and present them to the committee.
Members of the church are being kept informed through a monthly bulletin. Click on one of the links provided to read these. In addition, consultation events have been arranged and our architect, Rex Butland has been present to explain the various features of the project. In 2008 the congregation were asked to vote on the proposals and strong support was given on all aspects of the project.
Letter from the Vicar (in July 2008)
Eight years ago, when I first set foot inside Rustington church with a view to becoming Vicar here, I remember observing features I warmed to, but noticing other things which seemed to me to be in need of attention.
Having been through an extensive re-ordering scheme in my previous post, no doubt my perspective would have been different from that of someone accustomed to worshipping in Rustington Church. An Archdeacon’s Visitation in 2001 confirmed my growing feeling that, at that some point, we would need to give careful thought to the building. The Archdeacon commented on the poor state of the Aumbry, finding it scarcely fit for use (where the Blessed Sacrament is ‘reserved’).
In the Vicarage loft, I discovered a framed architect’s drawing of a (1960’s?) plan to extend and re-model the church. Although the scheme never went ahead, the drawing suggested that those who came before us had considered alterations to the building, including re-positioning the altar and changing the seating.
In May 2002, I attended a Church Buildings seminar at which I met Rex Butland. Two years later, when our then Inspecting Architect, Richard Meynell retired, Rex was amongst those the Chairman of the Diocesan Advisory Council recommended we consider as Richard’s successor.
I soon grew to admire some of the church’s features – arches, stained-glass windows, and the remaining steps of a stairway to a former rood screen. At the same time, I became aware of how far-removed from, and invisible to many of the people the altar was. I was struck by the disproportionate length of time it took to administer Holy Communion at the Parish Eucharist. I noticed how awkward the space at the front of the nave (or lack of it) was at weddings, funerals and at certain other services. I found it difficult to gather parents and godparents around the font for baptisms, and was concerned about the way in which the stone plinth on which the font is set, conflicts with the space by the north door. It seemed incongruous that the sanctuary is lit by a fluorescent light, and some of the other light fittings didn’t seem to do justice to such a lovely building.
Despite the heroic efforts of Keith Henderson to maintain and repair the sound system, I had a growing feeling that it was due replacement. I was surprised to learn how high the electricity bills were, that the electric heating system dated from 1931 and had only two settings – on and off! I noticed how embarrassing it could be for those arriving late for a service. The noisy latch and position of the door caused those already in church to turn and observe the unfortunate latecomer.
I noticed a plaque commemorating the restoration of the west porch in 1981, and thought it odd that that entrance seemed little used. I learnt that it was in 1981 that the choir stalls and eagle-lectern were acquired from a redundant church in Brighton. Despite the fine craftsmanship, the fact that they had not been originally fashioned for our church seemed all too obvious. I thought it a little strange that these furnishings had been introduced just around the time when many churches were developing plans to create more space and greater flexibility (as at St Mary’s East Preston, c. 1983).
I concluded that Rustington was still set up as a ‘Matins and Evensong Church’, even though the Church of England had, for the most part, become much more Eucharistic in theology and practice. Although the altar had been moved away from the east wall at some point (probably in the 1980’s) to enable the priest to preside facing the congregation, it nonetheless seemed ‘hedged about’ by communion rails and choir stalls, rather than being allowed to occupy its own space in a more prominent position.
Of the set of altar frontals, the white and the green appeared to be around fifty years old and were too fragile and dowdy to be fit for further use. Some handsome pieces of furniture had been acquired for use in the church, e.g. the credence table in the sanctuary (on which the communion requisites are placed) given by my predecessor, Ken Masters in memory of his parents. Other items, e.g. an officiant’s stall (on wheels) that could be moved from its resting place by the vestry door, across to by the organ (I heard this referred to as ‘the pram’!) seemed to create an impression of ‘clutter’. The church seemed ‘over-pewed’, making the aisles too narrow and obscuring the bases of the striking columns. Although I rarely sat in a pew, when I did, I found them uncomfortable, with inadequate ‘book space’. The dark wood surrounded by dark floor tiles contributed to a rather gloomy overall interior appearance.
When we have sought to remove dust and cobwebs from the rafters, we have found it difficult (and not a little dangerous) maneuvering ladders in and out of the immoveable rows of pews. Despite these observations, I have grown to love the church. My grandmother worshiped here when she lived in Rustington (1967-1976) and I remember attending her funeral, taken by Canon Cobb with my father giving the address.
When going into church, I am often mindful of the words of Jacob as he awoke after his dream at Bethel Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it. How awesome is this place; this is none other than the house of God. This is the gate of heaven. (Genesis 28.10) Please be assured that the sanctity of this ancient place of prayer is not lost on me. But I cannot believe it would be right to allow this sacred space to become fossilized in time. It is difficult trying to devise and lead the variety of types of service we have in a building where the furniture and fittings were designed for a pattern of worship now largely superseded, and when we are hopefully growing in the realization that we are the Church (as opposed to I go to church). And so – to echo words written by no less a figure than the Chancellor of the Diocese, who has to pronounce judgement upon the changes parishes seek to make to their church buildings in order to further their mission – ‘The sacred space has to change’. It has before - many times throughout Rustington Church’s long history. Some of these changes are described in the late Morris Heynes’ excellent guidebook to the church.
We know of a few vestiges of the pre-reformation building – e.g. the fragments of the mensa (stone altar slab) buried beneath the floor of the Lady Chapel. A plaque set into the floor of the sanctuary (south side) commemorates the restoration of 1861. Amongst the photographs on the front cover of Rustington Parish Magazine (July 1919) is one of the chancel, devoid of furniture save for the altar with a curtained reredos. A photograph of the Nave and Chancel in Dr Carruthers Corfield’s A Short Description of RUSTINGTON CHURCH (1953) shows how the east end of the north aisle was curtained off as the (then) Lady Chapel, before the vestry block was added (1958).
In the same way that each of our homes have been re-arranged, extended, adorned, adapted to suit different needs over time, so have church buildings, ours included.
Following the first Quinquennial Inspection undertaken by Rex Butland after his appointment as our Inspecting Architect (2005), the PCC then commissioned a Feasibility Study from Rex. This was to give us some ideas as to how the building might be adapted in such a way as to render it more flexible and – hopefully – more aesthetically pleasing (‘O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness’). Once the Diocesan Advisory Council had looked at them, Rex’s proposals – based on views expressed at a church meeting in January 2006 - were set out at a subsequent church meeting in November 2007. Inevitably, perhaps, reaction has been mixed. Some are enthusiastic about the proposals; a few have reacted against them, and many have welcomed much of what is being proposed whilst either expressing doubts about some aspects, or offering suggestions of their own.
The Churchwarden of a church re-ordered for the Millennium advocates ‘the 3 P’s’ – Prayer, Patience, People. We must, individually and corporately, pray that we may be guided to the right decisions. I know from my previous experience of the need to be patient! And its important that as many of you, the current membership, are broadly supportive of the project. The Buildings Group, led by Keith Henderson, has worked hard to bring us to where we are. At this stage, we are unable to dot all the i’s or cross all the t’s.
Any refurbishment/re-ordering scheme is expensive. Thankfully, we will almost certainly be able to draw on a proportion of a generous bequest made in the 1980’s to fund parts of any scheme. However, the need for some fund-raising is inevitable which will present a challenge, particularly in what is looking to be an increasingly difficult economic climate.
Building work of any kind often involves disruption and inconvenience. There can be setbacks, delays and extra expense. All these things test the faith, the resolve and the degree of unity of a church community. Despite these things, when proper attention is paid to ‘the 3 P’s’ many who have undertaken church projects have found that if they remain ‘strong and of good courage, and act’ and are not ‘afraid or dismayed’ then He will not fail or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the Lord is finished. 1 Chronicles 28.20
By means of a consultation to be carried out by members of the Building Group in a few week’s time, you will all have an opportunity to indicate whether you are broadly supportive of the proposals (the details of which you will be reminded in the consultation document), or not. New Testament Greek has two words for time – ‘chronos’, as in ‘What’s the time?’ and ‘Xairos’, as in ‘it was time to act’. The Building Group and PCC will be looking to you, brothers and sisters, in this Year of Our Lord 2008, to confirm whether you agree with us that we are at a ‘Xairos’ moment in the long history of the Church in this Parish. May we ‘discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect ‘ Romans 12.2).
Zachary Allen July 2008
The main features of the project
- The installation of a nave altar on a new dais,
- The high altar and chancel to become a place for weekday services and private prayer,
- Provision of a children’s area,
- The main entrance to include a welcome area and to be relocated to the west end,
- A new heating system,
- A new floor,
- Flexible seating,
- Better lighting,
- A new sound and audio-visual system,
- Improvements to the vestries including accessible toilets,
- A place for the preparation of refreshments and improved storage.
The Buildings Group Committee
The committee is a working group of the Parochial Church Council (PCC). It comprises members of the PCC and of the congregation. The members are:-
Ann Mathias (Churchwarden representative),
Tom Mitcham (Secretary to the committee)