Update, Spring 2017
By June 2016, all the money needed for phase 1 of the project had been raised or pledged, through grants, fundraising and individual donations. Local builders Reeves moved on site in September, and the building works were completed by April.
Latest News: St. James Church re-opened on Palm Sunday, 9th April, with a special rededication service, and guest the Bishop of Taunton. St. James’ is now open daily throughout the week for personal prayer and reflection. Thank you to all those who generous gifts of time, skills and money have made this possible!
And here’s how it looks!
As part of our 2020 Vision, we recognised that there are serious limitations in St. James’ church building. It is hard to encounter God when you can’t find a seat, can’t see very well what is happening, and are struggling to keep warm! St. James’ is a growing church, and we need a building that is fit for purpose as we approach our 600th anniversary in 2020.
Vision and Plans for St James 2020 Re-Ordering
1. The Past
Built in 1420, St. James church has, for most of its life, served a small hamlet outside Yeovil. With a school, a pub, and a small cluster of houses, most of the current church interior was put together in Victorian times, to seat 80 people and a choir, and to serve the life of a small village.
Preston Plucknett was transformed in the 20th century. Several waves of new housing joined the old village to Yeovil. St. James became a parish church in 1987, and the final corner of the parish was filled with housing just after 2000.
2. The Present
The ancient village church now serves a parish of 15,500 people. As the parish has grown, so has the church – in the last 10 years St. James membership has grown by 30%. The average congregation of 120 struggles to fit into the church, and on 1 Sunday a month spreads to a 2nd venue, in the Abbey Community Centre.
The church layout also creates problems in worship and outreach. The Victorians probably didn’t envisage a music group, 200+ people packing the church at Christmas, creative Easter workshops for families, or interactive worship.
The St. James vision is to be a Wholehearted Church, where we Encounter God, Grow Disciples, Live the Gospel and Gather Community. The call of God’s people is to worship, reach out, make disciples and spread His love in the world. The heart of the church is the people, and the layout of the building is not helping God’s people, or those who are on the journey of faith.
The ancient church is a beautiful ‘shop window’, with new people drawn here nearly every week. But many also find it cold, uncomfortable, and hard to see even if you can find a seat. It is often a struggle to use the church for worship, outreach and community gatherings.
3. The Future
Yeovil continues to expand, and new estates to the North and West of the parish are beginning to look to St. James. By 2020 it is likely we will have a further 3000 people to serve in mission, worship and prayer.
St. James has grown, and we pray we will continue to grow, with new children, young people and adults discovering the joy of following Jesus.
We know we will never fit everyone into the current building. Already St. James has several congregations around the parish (from residential homes to Messy Church). As a body grows, so the heart grows, to enable life to circulate. Our vision is to expand the ‘heart’ that is St. James building, so that we can support more new churches and congregations, across the current parish and into new housing areas too.
4. The Vision
To help us to grow in worship, mission, discipleship and community, we plan to re-order the interior of St. James church building. It is nearly 150 years since this was last done, and we want to create a worship space that is fit for purpose for a large and growing church:
- A beautiful and inspiring place of worship provided for this generation and the generations to come
- Re-ordering St. James so that we no longer have to work round the existing layout in worship, outreach and community events.
- 50% increase in seating capacity, creating space to grow.
- 100% increase in seats with good comfort, and visibility
- A building that is warmer, more comfortable, better lit, and quieter.
- A welcoming, flexible and usable space for the church and community, that can be open daily for prayer, and used in more creative ways for mission and outreach.
- All work done to a high standard, to enhance the church and enable people to encounter God more deeply.
- Replace all fixed pews with comfortable, flexible seating
- New balcony area, usable for seating in worship and also as a separate meeting space
- Renew side chapel so it can be used for private prayer and separate groups, or opened out into the rest of the church
- Raised central area for worship, music etc., providing a more inclusive feel to worship, and enabling everyone to see what’s going on.
- Better access for wheelchairs, loop system, lighting.
- Underfloor heating throughout, with a ‘green’ energy source.
- The combined effect of the plans will raise the seating capacity from 90 to 150
In all this our desire is to remove a physical barrier to church growth and creative worship, so that the church can make better use of the building, and the building better serve the whole parish for many more years to come.