A View to the Future

Some thoughts from the PCC about how St Paul’s will face
challenges & opportunities over the next few years

Reaching out to the Community

The  small congregation of S. Paul’s has been slowly growing again over the past year. The Parish Roll has increased from 54 to 61 since November.

It is a mature community with a rich diversity of character and opinion. Many of our faithful few have been coming in to West Street from across the city and beyond for over 20-30 years, some for over 50!

The priority is to maintain the liturgy and the sanctity of place.

Currently we would like to meet a seemingly simple challenge, the basic requirement to extend the times when the church is open.

A dedicated rota of church watcher keeps the doors open daily, extending the hours over Christmas and the New Year, for Holy Week and Easter and as much as possible throughout the Brighton Festival in May. Also we try to keep open for extended hours in July and August when we have most visitors, including special coach trips from distant parishes coming for a summer’s day by the sea-side.

 

However, we do need more recruits who have time to give and are fit enough to give it.

 

With two universities, an art college, a catering college, and numerous schools and colleges offering English tuition for young people from overseas, Brighton has a large and varied student population, on courses varying from two weeks to four or five years. 

When there is family trouble, such as a death when they are far from home, some of them turn to the church for help and support.

Educationally, S Paul’s has regular visits from schools in addition to its own, and from university students, particularly those planning to teach.  It may be possible to extend the number of school visits. We are fortunate to have in our regular congregation a number of experienced educationalists of all levels who can assist in developing our mission in this direction.

Safe Space

At the weekends many young people from outside the city join those based here to experience the night-life or ‘24 hour economy’.

This is where the Safe Space at S Paul’s comes in.  It has been running since 2006, and a brief account of its history may help in understanding the project.  It was initiated when a policeman walked into S Paul’s and asked if we had an ‘outhouse’ where people in trouble on West Street could be taken for safety.

The policeman turned out to be charged  with the reduction of violent crime in the centre of Brighton – crimes which included rape and robbery of the vulnerable.  After due consultation it was unanimously decided to offer the Holy Spirit chapel, which could be shut off from the rest of the church and was accessible from West Street.  It was the sort of opportunity we were looking for.

The chapel was duly cleared and about fifteen young people on a twelve-week Prince’s Trust course chose Safe Space as their two-week community project.  They cleaned, decorated and furnished it.  By Christmas 2006 it was open for use.

The Safe Space steering committee comprised then as it still does now representatives of the following groups:

·         the YMCA DownsLink Group
(in charge of running it)

·         the Red Cross (always a medical presence at Safe Space)

·         the Police

·         the local hospital trust

·         the Council’s Drug and Alcohol Action Team (who provided the chairman)

·         S Paul’s (we pay for heating, lighting and maintenance). 

The model of a community group of considerable diversity  - volunteers and professionals, local government, sacred and secular – that continues to work very successfully, has been widely-praised, for instance, by Baroness Scotland when she was Attorney General, and by the police in their annual report. 

The only major problem has been funding the salaries involved, and for the first few years Safe Space was not able to open continuously; but for some time now it has opened throughout the year on Friday and Saturday nights from 11.00pm to approximately 4.00am.  About 500 people use it annually.

To bring you up-to-date, two extracts from the report for the first quarter of the year:

1st January – 31st March 2015:

i)  From the Duty Station officer of the Croydon Ambulance Service, who shadowed Safe Space for one night:

‘Thank you for allowing me to observe the project last Friday, the experience was extremely inspiring...  No judgements were made by anyone at Safe Space.  Everyone’s joint aim was to ensure that everybody is safe, whatever the circumstances.  I am very keen to develop something similar in the Croydon Borough.  You can be very proud of what you have achieved with Brighton Safe Space.’

ii)  And from a client:

‘You were an absolute Godsend.  I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t been able to come and see you for support.’

A Busy Venue

S. Paul’s has been much used as a popular venue for concerts in the Festival Fringe and for the Brighton Early Music Festival.

However, for regular worshippers and concert visitors, car-parking is a problem.  S Paul’s car-park is a sort of back yard with space for only four cars, and the city car parks are too expensive to be used frequently. 

Providing a resource for the centre of Brighton is an area of work that we are very keen to develop further. We are blessed with sizable areas that can be available for social, community and commercial use. These are very much in need of renovation and modernisation and need an overall vision of development. In particular, there are plans for upgrading the kitchen, the sacristies and the impressive Fishermen’s Vestry.

The Narthex, which is the size of small church hall, could certainly be more welcoming and better furnished with serviceable storage. This would greatly increase its functionality.

Also there are events of one kind or another every weekend, some of which make access to the church difficult.  A prime example are the Brighton Marathon and the Half Marathon, which cut off the city centre and West Street from road and bus access. Even walking to church is a challenge on these Sundays!

In addition, since the Brighton bombing by the IRA of the Grand Hotel in 1984 (in S Paul’s parish), security has become very tight when there is a major political party conference here, the back of the church itself being within the ‘ring of steel’ of defence.  S Paul’s has in recent years hosted the Christian Socialists when the Labour Party meets in Brighton.  Their conference is due here this September.  Those who want to worship at S Paul’s have to be very determined!

More about the Music

S Paul's has a strong musical tradition and a fine choir.  There is a sung Mass every Sunday with settings by, among others, Haydn, Mozart, Byrd, Palestrina and Victoria. 

On special occasions, like our two Patronal Festivals – The Conversion of S Paul and SS Peter & Paul – our  choir is sometimes accompanied by a string ensemble.

In addition, there are Advent and Epiphany Carol Services.

Recitals and concerts take place throughout the year, including during the Brighton Fringe Festival and in the summer when we organise our own series of recitals on Saturday lunchtimes. 

Several local choirs regularly give concerts here and we are now a venue for a number of events during the Brighton Early Music Festival.

 

The church possesses a fine three-manual Hunter organ, which in 2009 was awarded a Historic Organ Grade 1 Certificate by the British Institute of Organ Studies. 

Following the fire in 2010, a thorough cleaning was undertaken of the organ chamber and pipework.  However, the action of the instrument requires major expenditure to ensure its continued future use.

There is also a small electric chamber organ which served us well after the devastating fire of Christmas 2010.

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