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Pew Comments

These are the comments that were posted on the FaceBook Page :-

Robin Clay  I suggest a visit to St. James’ Church at Milton Abbas, or St Mary’s Church at Cerne Abbas, which have undergone a similar reconfiguration to that proposed for ours. I don’t believe there are any cathedrals that still have fixed pews.

Or visit the Parish Church in Bimport, Shaftesbury - it is now a Day Centre and Scout Hall. Not a Church at all.

If you want the Church to remain open, then perhaps you might do a gift-aid Standing Order. And "it would be nice" if you came to a Church Service occasionally - even if only for a good sing-song !

Robin Clay  I'm not sure WHY this has been posted HERE on the Parish Council Page, for it has nothing to do with the Parish Council, who (usually) keep the Church at arm's length; the PC is supposed to be "independent".

Okeford Fitzpaine Parish Council  If you don’t think it should have been posted you should speak to the members of the PCC who asked for it to be put on here.

Also there have been other items posted on the site in the past which if you say this shouldn’t have then they shouldn’t have been but I’m sure you commented on them saying the same as you have on this post!!!

Think the residents are trying to tell the PCC something.

Julie Taylor because the church has not got a site that things can be put on .

Okeford Fitzpaine Parish Council  I put this on the site following a request from the PCC. The aim was to raise awareness in the community. We will also be including this in Fippenny news.

Robin Clay  If "the residents are trying to tell the PCC something." then THIS FaceBook Group for the PARISH Council is hardly the best way to communicate.

If you want to know about the PARISH Council, then you can look on the PARISH Noticeboard outside the shop, or the PARISH Council WebSite


If you want to know about the Village Hall, then you can look on the Village Hall Noticeboard on the building, but I don't know of a Village Hall WebSite.

If you want to know about the School, then you can look on the School Noticeboard in the School porch, or the School WebSite


Okeford Fitzpaine Church of England Primary School

If you want to know about the Church, then you can look on the Church Noticeboard in the Church porch, or the Church WebSite




Okeford Fitzpaine Parish Council  You can also read about all of these things in Fippenny News which is a community magazine and not uniquely a church magazine.


Molly Newell  Unbelievably sad and this can’t be blamed on government ‘guidance’ re social distancing. Ripping out the fabric of grade 1 listed buildings for no good reason.

Will the stained glass windows be next

Niki Carey  This shouldn’t be happening, so sad - they are part of the history of the church and our village. The world has gone mad, people seem to want to change the history of our country one way or another! What is the reasoning for getting rid of these Victorian pews?? Take the soul away from a lovely historic building 

Nichola Jane Lawrence  Can’t they be stored... this isn’t forever? Seems really sad.

Okeford Fitzpaine Parish Council  This is a project being led by the church. The reordering was agreed 2-3 years ago

Lorna Cooper  Even though I have not been inside the church I find this so incredibly sad that something so historic and beautiful has to be removed because the church have decided on a ‘re-ordering’ whatever that means. Let’s just strip all of our history and architecture away. What’s next ‘let’s change the church to a more affective structured building’. These pews, I’m assuming have been there for quite some years. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m not a churchgoer. However when I have been to a funeral, wedding or christening, or even to absorbed the history there is something very solid and reassuring about a pew. You can either be close to someone or far away. But it’s got a connectivity. A chair doesn’t have that. It’s impersonal and alone.

Christine Lily Roddier   100% agreeing with you. How sad!!! Xx

Tessa Cuff   totally agree everything gone mad no flowers they were removed wots going on x

Sharon Louise Miller  Totally agree so sad

Julie Taylor   re-ordering is just a word used to say that they would like to change the inside of the church to make to an open room so it can be adapted to other things not just a normal service, or something like that , hope that explains it a bit 

Lorna Cooper   aw ok. Yes that makes sense thank you

Julie Taylor   glad it made sense ,NOT that I agree with what they are doing, x

Robin Clay  Lorna Cooper  wrote (above) " the church have decided ". Fact check - f.y.i., it's not "the Church" per se; it is the PCC, whose Members (except for the ex-officio Rector) are all elected at the annual Church Meeting by people whose names are on the Electoral Roll, which costs nothing and is available to Christian Parishioners who want it. Some decisions are subject, of course, to approval by the Diocese, who can suggest changes - as, I gather, they did in this case. The entire process is VERY similar to the Parish Council and - say - Planning Permission, which requires NDDC approval..

Traci Ewings I’m most certainly not a Godly resident of the village!!!!! This is so very sad. Can we not store them?? I have lots of space. Would be happy to help if needed ??? Chairs are not a needed thing in our wonderful church Pews that have been there for ever are. 

Sally Carr  Not all the pews are going. The older ones on the left are staying.

Okeford Fitzpaine Parish Council  Sally Carr I may be wrong but the reason they are staying is because they have a preservation order on them, please correct me if I’m wrong?

Steve ( Corben).

Kate Stevens  I'm excited about seeing a lovely revamped church. This has been talked about since I moved to the village 5 years ago

Alice Goddard  What will happen to the pews that don't get sold to locals? Have reclamation companies been contacted? Would hate to see them just chucked out!

Edd Maynard  Really poor decision, a sad loss for the community.

Andrew Richards  What is sad is that folk who do not go to church are more concerned about preserving the local church as some sort of museum than seeing it adapt and grow and thrive as a place of cohesive, positive spiritual discovery.

Fee Beddow  a church is more than God, its architecture, its a moment in time, its a focal point for a village, the people who originally worshipped there, would hardly recognise today's religion!

Andrew Richards  rarely have I been treated to such errant nonsense. Even if you don't believe in God the very definition of the word "God" - that, than which nothing greater can exist - invalidates your contention. The church in Okeford Fitzpaine, like most medieval churches, is patently not a "moment in time". It was started, probably on an ancient site of pagan worship, in line with that syncretisation common to the incoming Christian religion. It has been added to, altered, ruined, rebuilt over the years. The architecture is not the product of A moment in time. At least you have the temerity to recognise the upheaval in religious practice effected by the Reformation; the Parish Church movement; the Oxford movement etc.. I'm also assuming that you contribute on a weekly basis to its upkeep like those good folk who worship God within its walls, and to ensure that it remains a standing piece of architecture and a focal point .

Fee Beddow  lol, no I don't.  I just think it's nice

Andrew Richards  I rest my case.

Ruth Marie Would love one but alas nowhere to put one in our little house. 

Helen Corben  outside if treated, we had pews outside at my school 

Ruth Marie  I did wonder about that but Lee said we have no room. (I think I could make room for something so special!)

Helen Corben  definitely make room!!!! 

Ruth Marie  I’ll work on it Helen 

Helen Corben  Apparently we were sent letters regarding our views on the removal of the pews, did anyone in Castle Avenue area receive one? We certainly didn’t

Richard Markham  I think they should stay where they are. Very 

Neil Corben  I would assume that the design of chair has been decided upon. Are there any images of this proposed new seating?

Country Fayre Interiors  That is so sad

Tessa Cuff  So sad 

Elena Sparshott  So sad.

Stella Counsell  A terrible shame. Can they not be saved?

Alexandra Radford   This is very sad, you are ripping out the character and history of the church. What a travesty. Local craftsman made those pews with love for the church in this gem of a village in which we live. Generations have been christened, wed and departed this life there sitting in those very pews. Families joining together. Modern churches also have pews its part of the body of the church. Why bother putting chairs in the church you might just as well use the village hall and hold the service there save all the expense. Chairs are no more comfortable than pews and twice as noisy so you are not going to modernise the church by ripping out it's heart and craftsmanship. The churches I have attended have all had pews and after the service the concretion are invited to have coffee in the hall so that families can socialise with each other. I don't think Covid has anything to do with this, the church is big enough for parishioners to keep a safe distance and enjoy the service.

Darcie Watson  because I know you love a pew

Anne Sjb  I am a churchgoer in a 800 year-old church in a different part of England, and the modern chairs are infinitely more comfortable than old Victorian pews, as well as being more flexible for seating arrangements for different functions. I think it is a great pity that the proposal for change was centred around allowing more space for larger people: actually everyone who uses the church will benefit, and modern, carefully chosen seating enhances an older building. I understand that St Andrews is 700 years old, and I would like to point out that when the church was built there would have been no seating (well, only for the clergy). the pews are Victorian, and of no great age, and probably caused an outcry when they were put in. The church of England - as has already been said - is not a museum. Each church building serves a congregation for a variety of purposes, and these change over time. Therefore the interior of the church has to change to serve these changing and developing purposes. 

Kate Stevens We would love 2

Robin Clay

I REALLY didn't want to get involved, but I feel I must correct some mis-apprehensions:-

Don't shoot the messenger.

Many comments above are about what the Church does for you.

Think also what you can do for the Church in return.

I am not on the PCC; but here are some facts (off the top of my head), most of them pretty obviously self-evident.

You may not LIKE these facts, but they are facts none-the-less:-

A. About the Church:-


The Church was originally built before the Norman Conquest in 1066, probably of timber; but the oldest bit remaining is the tower, which was built at the turn if the 13th/14th Century, with the older Saxon footings visible. This older configuration, a great deal of which is still present in the form of stonework, stone carvings and pulpit, was consecrated in 1302 and Robert Fitzpaine, the last family to be resident Lords of the Manor, who built it, gave his name in perpetuity to the village. The Church has been re-configured several times since then, the most recent in 1866, which included the installation of the Victorian pine pews now to be removed. The Jacobean oak pews, with their wonderful ancient graffiti done by bored children listening to interminably long sermons, will not be taken out and nor will the beautiful oak pews in the chancel paid for by the generous family of a Rector’s wife.


The pews are not very comfortable. They will be replaced by upholstered wooden chairs - definitely not plastic chairs as some suppose.


Because the pews are fixed, the Church use is restricted. For instance, a recent funeral was attended by over 300 people, but the pews only hold 200, so the service had to be relayed to the village hall.


If there is to be a fund-raising event - such as a history talk, an exhibition or a presentation - to raise funds specifically for the Church, and the Church building is suitable, then the event could be held in the Church. The church would not be suitable for the activities that currently take place in the hall such as bowls, voting, café, parties, wedding receptions, exercise classes etc.

B. Work in the Church:-


Your Church is (normally) open every day, but locked at night, by a team of volunteer key-holders - you could be one of  them.


After every Sunday Service, worshipers are offered free coffee & biscuits provided by volunteers. Currently the cups have to be carried home for washing up and then returned. You could be one of them.


Your Church is cleaned regularly by volunteers - you could be one of them.


Your Church usually has fresh flowers, arranged by volunteers - you could be one of them.


The bells are ring by volunteers - you could be one of them.


Simple maintenance is done by volunteers - you could be one of them.


The nearest water supply is a garden tap outside the Vestry; there is no sink in which to wash-up the coffee cups, or for water for cleaning all the church surfaces, or for doing the flowers. There is no toilet.

C. Work in the Churchyard:-


The Churchyard holds a great number of graves. Some are tended regularly, but most are "forgotten". The Churchyard grass is cut by volunteers - you could be one of them.

D. Congregation:-


For the last 5-10 years, regular congregations have rarely been more than about 25 from this village of about 1000 souls. This is partly down to busy lives but how much of this is down to tired paintwork, a rigid and antiquated pew system and lack of facilities?


In practice, it is simply not viable to keep a Church open unless the regular congregation is more than about 25 - so our Church is at serious risk of being closed for good. I think many among us would be sad if that happened.


Leaving out special occasions - Christmas, baptisms, weddings, funerals, Remembrance Day, etc., I wonder how many of the authors of the above comments have been to an ordinary "regular Sunday Service" in the last ten – twenty? - years.

E. Finance:-


The Church costs about £10,000 a year to run, and we also have to pay about another £10,000 as the "precept", our share of the cost of running Salisbury Diocese - the Cathedral, Sherborne Abbey, the Bishops and the administration. With a population of about 350 families, that works out at only £1 a week per family.  But with a congregation of only 20 that would be £20 a week !


We are lucky to have some income from past legacies; and some very generous anonymous donors, without whom the Church would have closed a while ago.  But this cannot go on.


We can get "grants" to modernise the Church, but not for day-to-day expenses; it has to be self-sustaining.


The village hall is owned by the Parish Council, which would subsidise it if necessary to retain it as a community asset.  The Church, if not self-supported, will close - the village already has two Chapels that are now private houses..


This is American and from 2012, but suggests three critical questions that need to be answered regarding the Church's finances:-

1. How much of the budget receipts come from those older than 70? Older than 75? Older than 80?

2. How much of the budget receipts come from those younger than 35 years of age?

3. What percentage of the budget receipts come from your top five donors?


This is YOUR CH--CH.

What is missing?


In a nutshell, to put it bluntly -

Use it, pay for it, or lose it.

Anne Sjb  Do see my comments above. I am a fan of modern chairs as opposed to pews. The use of chairs in our historic church in Oxfordshire has led to many different arrangements for a variety of services, and I think the chairs in our church look lovely. They don't soak up as much light as dark pews do, they are upholstered in a beautiful blue and make the church much more welcoming. It is a great shame that this totally reasonable action by a church community has attracted so much negative attention especially from people who don't live in the village or use the church.

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