the Wren Building Steering Group residential meeting; our markets and site management; our Investment Policy; the review of how well we welcome new people at St James's services; how Notices after the 11am Eucharist on Sundays might best be given; Harvest and Sukkot 2014 and JustShare debates at St James’s. Follow the 'read more link' for the full report, and please feel free to post comments or questions.
Wren Building Steering Group residential meeting
The group reported on their residential meeting which had produced some key recommendations for consideration by the PCC. In looking at the development of the Wren café, the Group had come to the view that it made no sense to develop this in isolation, and that there was a need to have a vision for the whole site. Members of the Group had discussed what it is they want people to see and feel as they enter the gates off Piccadilly. The vision that emerged included a café, a garden that is accessible, and a re-imagined use for the Wren building and the narthex area. Proposals were based upon the theological image of the banquet, to which all are invited which in turn was expressed in our weekly celebration of the Eucharist. Hospitality, inclusivity, beauty, justice and welcome were key principles behind the group’s discussions.
Significantly, questions had been raised about the suitability of the Wren building for use as a café, given its limited footprint, and the ideas that emerged from the discussions were to look at using the Wren building as a ‘church room’, bringing some of the church offices and the vestry into the church space, and using the ground floor and basement of the rectory building for a café / social enterprise. The changes might also enable taking away the vestry link between the Church and the rectory, thereby opening up access to the site from Church Place. “Peopling the church” may then be possible, by having a permanent verger presence in a new vestry located at the west end of the church itself.
The group advised that Andrew Mawson and Donald Findley of Andrew Mawson Partnerships, the consultants working with the Steering Group, had held discussions with many of SJP’s neighbours. Given the goodwill and support that had been expressed towards St James’s Church, and developments in the immediate vicinity of the site (including substantial investment by the Crown Estate), now was considered to be an optimal time to move forward with the site redevelopment. The group commented however that something like the previous planned scheme for the whole site was not what was envisaged. The Group was not suggesting a radical rebuilding of the Rectory building. The scale of what was suggested was therefore considered to be much more manageable, and while making the buildings fit the vision and values, these ideas were going “with the grain” of the site itself. This kind of scheme would be more likely to receive approval from English Heritage and Westminster Council, alongside the conservation societies and church authorities to whom the PCC is accountable.
The PCC were encouraged to look at the existing feasibility study by Ptolemy Dean, which illustrated how the Wren building might be changed and means introduced of providing wider access to the tower room and balconies. A further feasibility study had now been commissioned for presentation in December and the scheme would be further developed in the New Year.
The group also advised that the ‘passports’ that had been completed by members of the Community following visits to café over the summer had been very helpful in developing the Group’s thinking on the type of café that SJP might develop, and would inform further discussion. Feedback would be collated and presented to the wider congregation and community shortly.
Markets and site management
The Markets Manager attended and gave his report. All was going well although the market was not bringing the income budgeted for in 2014 and this would be a problem for the year end figures. The new low energy lights ordered at the request of the PCC were not bright enough for the traders and this would need to be negotiated over the next few months. The market traders themselves made a donation to the Night Shelter for which the PCC thanked them.
A new appointment of Estates Manager had not worked out as the post holder had got another job at the same time as accepting this one. Duties were therefore being covered by the Markets Manager, the Head Verger, the Gardener, all coordinated by the Rector. Several important tasks had been completed and Jane Gray (HR adviser) had been asked to complete a contract review so that a way forward could be considered at the standing committee. In the meantime, discussions were taking place with the Chief Executive and Estates Manager at St Martin in the Fields, who were keen to work together on a shared site management and maintenance team. This could save resources for both churches and discussions would be taken forward.
St Mark’s in the Bowery, New York City USA
An approach had been made by this church, whose Rector had visited St James’s over the summer. Did we want to develop a link of some sort within the London Diocese link with the Episcopal Church’s Diocese of New York. A link person was appointed to explore this.
Our Treasurer Simon Stedman and Penelope Douglas, PCC member had worked together on revisions to our investment policy. The principles were endorsed and the use of Ethical Investors, a firm of specialist ethical financial advisers, was agreed.
Welcomers Process Review
A paper from the church wardens was considered to aid improvement to the welcomers process. Key recommendations were: a dedicated welcoming team, to include current sidespersons and welcomers, to take special responsibility for making newcomers welcome on Sundays. A quarterly lunch after the service to take place in the church hall, highlighting of the newcomers page on the website, consideration of moving tea and coffee to avoid congestion. The attendance of PCC members at the newcomers lunches was emphasised.
Notices on Sundays
The PCC considered proposals for the way in which notices are given on Sundays. A Charter of Notices was agreed for publication in the service sheet. Consideration was given to having a “bulletin board” or dedicated notices sheet with clear instructions about how to get a notice into this sheet (to the parish secretary by the Thursday before the Sunday). Other ideas were discussed, in use at other churches, for example, a maximum number of notices, or having a word with the clergy beforehand. For now, the church wardens will speak individually with people and enforce the time limit so that the notices are as helpful and positive an experience as possible for the congregation listening. See more
Harvest and Sukkot 2014
The PCC was unanimous in its support for this initiative. Some reports in the Jewish press had been challenging, focussing on the controversial aspects of collaborating with St James’s Church but the PCC remained strongly supportive of the cooperation and collection for the food bank, together with debates about Scripture, climate change and poverty in the UK that this festival represented. A report of the activities after the event would be welcomed.
London AdWeek March 2015
St James’s was collaborating with one of the hirers for the garden, during London AdWeek in March 2015. The proposals were not simply to hire the garden to the organisers but to engage more closely with the event, holding seminars in church about the ethics of advertising and accepting the offer from the organisers to highlight an issue of social justice in the courtyard for the duration of the 4 days. This was seen to be an opportunity to engage with an industry that might not naturally “fit” with what the church does, but an opportunity to have a creative dialogue with an event that would be hiring the garden in any case. St Paul’s Institute would be asked to be involved, as their special interest was in church dialogue with the businesses of London. The lead organiser, Matt Scheckner, had been very struck with the Bethlehem Unwrapped Wall and wanted to help with a similarly striking artistic representation of an issue that St James’s would want to raise. Having raised an international issue with this, the PCC considered that something relating to London itself would be a good theme.
JustShare debates at St James’s
The PCC accepted an ongoing partnership with JustShare, located at St Mary le Bow in the City of London, to hold regular debates and dialogues here on economic issues.
The Archdeacon of Charing Cross would be making his triennial visitation on Monday 3rd November. His primary focus in these meetings is to meet with the church wardens, to inspect the church registers, finances and property and to attend the PCC meeting. This would be the last visitation from the Venerable Bill Jacob, who would be retiring at Christmas.