So the Diocese of Bath and Wells, who own the property, plan to sell it. I believe they are right so to do.
Thing is, what we now call the Old Rectory and its garden are part of the historic footprint of Holy Trinity Church with its adjacent Trinity Centre. We also own a Church Hall some 100 metres down the road and have use of a medieval tithe barn opposite the church. There is a graveyard next to the Church Hall. In between the graveyard and the Old Rectory is a bungalow, in private ownership which was built when some of the diocese's land assets were sold off. The bungalow stands as a brick metaphor that if you sell off church land you can almost never get it back.
Part two of our conundrum is this. Holy Trinity church is stretched for space, especially on Sunday mornings, Tuesday mornings and various evenings of the week. Only last night two groups were denied permission to use any of the church plant for meetings because it was all taken already. Our parish profile has set out a vision of the church (by which we mean people here, not buildings) trying to be more involved in local community life and an intention to go for numerical growth. I believe that a church which has set out its vision for growth, and recruited a new Rector on the basis of that vision, should under no circumstances consider shrinking its historic footprint.
There are many things we could use the Old Rectory for. A small, and quite creative task group, met to consider the opportunities and within a short space of time had come up with the possibilities of:
- New offices
- New meeting rooms
- Accommodation for interns
- Accommodation for rent
- Accommodation, short-term, for people in difficulty
- Quiet space and garden
- Retreat space
- Rentable board rooms
- Freeing up some of the space in the church currently used for storage and office to be used for ministry, welcome and prayer
- An exemplary 'green' building, blending the best eco-friendly techniques with the beauty of the old
We don't have the money and need to raise it. We are finding it hard to raise the money without putting some flesh on the bones of the plans. But it is too early to go definite on what we might use it for. It is not that we have no plan. It is that we have many and don't need to commit to one yet. But a more definite vision will probably help us to access grant aid. Impasse.
The task group met again last night to think on. We have no power and authority - simply an interest in the project. The result is that, over the next few weeks, we will show and present some drawings and rough plans (done by volunteers at no cost) of the sort of things the Old Rectory space could be used for. We hope that this will capture enough imaginations to persuade people to invest in the project before we commit to one specific idea. If it doesn't then we will have to face the criticism of being the generation that let the building slip through our fingers.
What does all this come down to? Is it trust? Is it vision? Maybe communication, or leadership? Probably all four. It is interesting that this is all happening during our vacancy when there is a leadership vacuum at the very top and several of us from a few rungs down are doing our best to steer.
If you read this and have a question or observation please post a comment or drop the church office a note.
The other members of the task group know I am posting this but the words are all my own. I'm biased. I think we should go for it and dig deep to stump up the cash. I am committed to chipping in. Let's talk.