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Renovation hope for ‘depressing’ Beer church

PUBLISHED: 15:00 11 May 2014

Beer’s ‘thoroughly depressing’ parish church will undergo major internal renovations to reverse a period of decline if parishioners lend their support.

A damning report compared St Michael’s to a cluttered ‘rummage sale’ filled with abandoned remnants of a bygone era – but the parish church council (PCC) is determined to give it a new lease of life.

The proposed work includes removing many of the pews and the altar, levelling the floor, reconfiguring the layout and installing storage space.

A professional survey noted: “For all the claims that the church is an impressive building and celebration of its grandeur, the present interior is full of clutter and all manner of stuff that no-one seems to have had the confidence to throw away.

“It has the appearance of a slightly musty and irrelevant rummage sale, remnants of a bygone era that have been abandoned with a degree of sorrow and sadness.

“It all suggests a congregation who are overwhelmed by the challenges of their building and mission. I found St Michael’s a thoroughly depressing place to be.”

In response, the plans read: “This candid report stung the PCC and congregation into serious reflection, and the realisation that continued decline could only lead to closure. It also led to a resolve that this should not be the case.”

Knowing the work would be needed, the PCC already has the funds set aside, and its coffers were boosted recent by a generous legacy.

The PCC wants to clear the clutter and make the building appear ‘more cared for and loved’, and create a more intimate space for smaller services and prayer.

They also plan to improve the facilities for families and younger people, form a larger space for social interaction and an occasional café, enhance the popular bookstall and boost the quality of the space for concerts and exhibitions.

The majority of Beer’s 1,500 parishioners will attend a service at some point in the year, and the church aims to make those experiences positive.

The grade II listed church was completed in 1877 and is currently left open every day of the year, attracting several thousand visitors.

The blueprints have won the approval of the Diocese of Exeter and now the church has to make a ‘petition for faculty’ to the parishioners.

They are on display in the church, together with instructions for anyone wanting to object.

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