Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Having Another Go

You may have read mentions here of St John’s church in Chatham, where I used to live and worship. A correspondent points me towards this report from Archbishop Cranmer’s blog, not a place where I often go (at least not without a spiritual gas mask), in turn quoting thisone about the Diocese of Rochester, known in some quarters as The Troubled Diocese of Rochester, being given a central CofE grant of £665K to ‘re-establish mission in Chatham Town Centre’, a project which includes ‘planting a new worshipping community alongside missional outreach’. David Jennings from the Archbishops’ Council replied to His Grace’s blog post by referring to ‘a new town centre church’. There are already, of course, two churches available there: one called Emmaus, led at the moment by an Anglican priest and based in the former United Reformed Church building, spectacularly ugly but in the right sort of place; and secondly the lovely old St John the Divine which I knew over twenty years ago, an early-19th century church hopelessly islanded on the wrong side of the central ring road, which the diocese has fruitlessly been attempting to dispose of for years. The Emmaus website is a bit thin and there isn’t anything datable on it, so I wonder how well they’re doing: the Anglican churchwardens are names I recognise from when I worshipped there. As for old St John’s, it still sits there, looking rather sullen and resentful to me, as well it might, apparently wanted by nobody and yet not able to be destroyed thanks to its listed status. Is the Church actually planning to build yet a third building? Were it me, I would be tempted either to try and make old St John’s work (a romantic dream, I fear), or pull down half or more of the Clover Street building and put something nice in its place. But surely £665K isn’t enough for that – even in Chatham?

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