Congregational meeting to be held on Sunday 3rd October
The minister and the Kirk Session of Crown Church have decided to hold a Congregational meeting immediately after the service on Sunday 3rd October.
The purpose of the meeting will be to decide on the removal of the pews from the sanctuary and replace them with comfortable chairs. This will also involve re-siting the organ back to its original position together with levelling, re-sanding and polishing the floor.
The history of this matter goes back to an Elders' Conference which was held in December 2018. At that time, Crown Church was in vacancy and our minds were focused on how to reverse the steady and continuing decline in church membership and to re-engage with our local community.
Our Parish Profile, which had been prepared as part of the process to appoint a new minister, made specific reference to striving “to strengthen our links with the local parish and community.”
There was widespread recognition that we simply could not continue as before. We needed to embrace change, if necessary radical change, to achieve our core objectives.
This led directly to the formation by Crown Church of the project group known as “20/20” and it’s members were requested to make an immediate start with plans to realise our objectives.
The 20/20 group entered negotiations with Highland Council which resulted in our giving a long-term lease of our Lower Hall to the Council to enable the Council to provide accommodation for up to 50 preschool children. Please see the photograph of the nursery children looking towards the site where their new nursery is, at this very moment, under construction. This photograph appeared in last month’s edition of the church newsletter.
This collaboration with Highland Council has not only solved the problem of accommodation for nursery children which the Council was, at that time, facing, it has brought many benefits to our church, including a £25,000 per annum annul rental, which is index linked.
It was recognised at the outset that, given we would no longer have the use of our Lower Hall, we would need to make much better use of all the other accommodation left to us, particularly the Upper Hall and the Sanctuary itself.
This website has documented the transformation of Upper Hall which now provides a state-of-the-art facility for use by both church and community groups. Crucially, our negotiations with the Highland Council also led to the installation of a lift to the Upper Hall which is under construction now and is being provided by the Highland Council at no cost to ourselves. Accordingly, we will have, not just this facility, but also the vastly improved kitchen and toilet facilities in the Upper Hall which are already in place and in use.
Which brings us to the Sanctuary itself. It was recognised at the outset that an integral part of the plan would be to make much better use of the space available in the Sanctuary. Put bluntly, without doing so, we would not be able to realise our vision of strengthening links with the local parish and community unless and until we did so.
This is where the proposal to remove the pews and replace them with comfortable chairs (see the pictures of some of the options available) came from. This proposal would not only bring greater comfort, it would also allow much greater and more flexible use of the space within the sanctuary.
The need for this has recently been highlighted by the amazing success of Struan McRoberts (Young Crown) initiative in relaunching a toddler group using the sanctuary itself as no other accommodation is available within the church during the ongoing construction work in the Lower Hall.
The numbers of children, parents, and grandparents whom Struan has been bringing into the church during these sessions (which take place on Wednesday and Thursday mornings and are open to all) is nothing short of amazing and this despite the severe restrictions which are imposed upon him by dint of the fact that most of the space in the Sanctuary is not available due to the presence of the pews. It is also worth pointing out that, through his initiative, Struan has been bringing, not just the children, but the adults who come with them, into our Sanctuary which many are seeing for the very first time.
The church dearly wishes to replicate this initiative by bringing lots of other church and community groups into our buildings using all the available accommodation, including the Sanctuary, to its full potential.
Of course, during this process, our prayers were answered with the induction of our new minister, the Reverend Douglas Robertson in January 2020. Douglas makes no bones about the fact that he was attracted (all the way from Australia) to a church which had such a clearly stated vision to strengthen its links with the local parish and community and was sufficiently energised to roll up its sleeves and start doing something substantial to realise that vision. Since his induction, Douglas has been a staunch supporter of the 20/20 project.
The meeting to be held on Sunday 3rd October will only decide whether or not to agree to the removal of the pews and replace them with comfortable chairs, as described above. Further permissions, in the event of a successful vote, will still require to be obtained from the Presbytery and the Church of Scotland General Trustees. Nevertheless, it is also worth pointing out that the 20/20 group have already secured the funding needed to remove the pews and to buy high quality replacement chairs.
However, as avid users of our website are already aware, the replacement of the pews with comfortable chairs is only a part (albeit an important part) of the plan which involves the construction of a new, modern, and attractive all ability entrance to our church beside the church garden. We live in exciting times!