Parish Development

Before Christmas we put up plans in the Guild Room and on the church notice board describing a number of changes which were being considered to improve the front area of the church.
The purpose of our original plan was to provide an accessible toilet and step free area for less able parishioners, and an easier route from the church to a children’s liturgy area. We also wanted to provide a larger area than the current Guild Room for coffee and other social meetings, and a more welcoming weatherproof area for visitors waiting for baptism, funeral and other services.
The Diocese and its architectural advisers did not approve development that substantially changed the frontage of the Church and we were asked to consider development at the side, not the front.
This we have done and the revised plan now shown on the church notice board and below has been developed, and received an encouraging early response from the Diocese.
The plans include construction of a new social space opening onto the rear garden and with accessible toilet facilities, reduction in depth of the stepped area at the front of the church to provide better vehicular access and widening/re-configuring of the current ramp.
The funding for our original proposal was a £100k donation from a parish family. Our architectural/building advisers will be assessing whether or to what extent the revised plan can be delivered for this sum.
Owing to the current restrictions on gatherings we are unable to hold a Parish meeting to discuss the proposals but we would welcome your comments which can either be made via the contact form (please select Finance) or directly to Father Mathew, Chris Croker, Andrew Ford, Linis Dolby or Declan Moore after Mass.

The Revised Plan

The purpose of our original plan and the diocesan response are summarised above. Our revised plans and isometric pictures are shown below.

As we are unable to hold any meetings in the current Coronavirus restrictions, these notes have been written to provide additional information about the nature and benefits of this revised proposal and to explain some of the issues that have been considered in arriving at this proposal.

1. Levels
You cannot but be aware that our Church has many steps, a ramp and some very uneven bits of concrete. This may not be the most exciting topic, but it has been a real problem for our architect, Andy Todd, as he worked to provide improved access for wheelchair users and those of us, old or young, who can struggle with these obstacles.
The church porch is nearly two feet (4 steps) higher than the Guild Room entrance, and there are lots of regulations about slopes, flat areas by doors and paving surfaces which are now mandated for safety reasons (you can be sure that some of our current Church design features would never have got through planning if submitted now.)
So the first thing you may notice is that the new building is half way between the floor level of the Church and that of the presbytery. From the porch, which will be newly paved, there will be a gentle slope down towards the presbytery and then a flat curved path to the entrance of the new room. This eliminates about half the difference in height.
The remaining height difference between the new room and the Guild Room is accommodated outside by a step down in the wall as it curves around and, internally, by two existing steps in the passageway past the presbytery toilets.
So, wheelchair users will be able to move safely from church to the new hall for any social gathering and will have an accessible toilet close by the hall entrance.
Those going out to the children’s liturgy will have a shorter and less precarious route to and from the Church although, sorry, we have not been able to make this a covered weatherproof route.

2 The New Parish Room

The new social area or parish room (yet to be named by Father) is in total about 50 square metres with a much larger ‘free space’ for tables and movement than the Guild Room (which also has to accommodate some office equipment etc.)
It will have double doors opening onto the garden which parishioners will be encouraged to use and enjoy. Its size, easy access from the church and garden outlook are expected to make it the most frequently used area for small social gatherings.
The accessible (wheelchair) toilet is near the entrance and all the other toilet, tea prep and Guild Room facilities in the presbytery area are linked to the parish room by a new doorway in the wall.
The building will have a flat roof, with modern low maintenance surfacing, A pitched roof with a vaulted ceiling might have been nicer but it would be substantially more expensive.
Ceiling height will be 2.8 metres and light from windows onto the garden will be supplemented with two large roof lights. The two windows on the presbytery side are high level to provide a degree of privacy to that part of the garden.
A small store which can take some stacked chairs and folding tables is included.
There is access from the new room to the existing tea preparation area, but on occasion both rooms may be separately used, or the Parish Room let for some external or private function. We have therefore included a small tea prep area in the new room.
Many other details will get defined once we have approval and budget estimates. These details include electrics, lighting, flooring, heating etc. The flooring will probably be Karndene - a low maintenance hard wearing surface maybe with a pine floor appearance - and standards of insulation will be excellent.

3 The Porch Area

The main change in this area is removal of the front steps leaving two sets of side steps (as now, but less wide) and gentle slopes both sides leading either to the Parish Room or out to Highfield Road.
Removal of the front steps and replacement with a wall and railings does not detract from the frontage and still leaves a church background for Palm Sunday, Weddings etc. The gains are extra space for vehicle turning and access, and very much safer mingling outside the church entrance without any risk of a backward fall.
The flat concrete porch itself remains unchanged with its Christmas crib annual feature, but the few yards from the shelter of the porch to the parish are uncovered but still a lot easier route than the current stepped route.
The porch area, steps and new slope etc will be newly paved. This will have to meet non-slip standards, and surface texture changes etc for the disabled and those with impaired sight. It will probably be a neutral grey colour but that is to be considered at a later stage. (the existing pavers are not suitable).
You may wonder ‘Why that funny curved bit? That’s a bit tricky to explain, but its all about regulations on slopes and flat areas by doors. There is insufficient length to run a slope down from the porch to the Guild Room entrance so this flat curve gives us what is required for new Parish room entrance to meet regulations and, probably to the delight of the Diocesan architects, moves the new building back and away from the church façade.

4 The Entry Ramp

After talking to funeral directors and some less able parishioners we know that the existing entry ramp is just about OK if the hedge is cut and we do a bit of concrete repair work. But what we want to do, if it’s affordable, is to widen this approach ramp by about a foot and to change its alignment. This is shown in the revised plan.
These changes will clearly separate the pavement pedestrian access off Highfield from a much wider vehicle entrance, offering some access choices for wedding and funeral cars, and making the front area use by Father and his visitors less of a car scratching risk.
With proper rails this will also make it a much easier for the less able to walk up the slope with side by side support.
Aesthetically, it will also provide a coherent new frontage for the church from Presbytery to road.

5 Bits and Pieces

You will realise that the position of the new Parish Room has garage and tree implications.
There is a large cherry tree in the garden whose fruit the birds take well before Father has a chance. No doubt is was lovely when planted but it is now too big for its location both by the church and any new development. It will have to be removed and there are some clay heave implications that will impact on foundation depth.
The garage will also have to go. Obviously the Presbytery still has the other garage and the one by the church has rarely been used in recent years other than for storage. The ‘easy’ answer is to buy a shed that could be placed in the garden (at the end of the other garage) mainly holding garden equipment.
But that’s just money and another view is that you will always fill any storage space that’s available. (Please, before we buy a shed is there anybody out there who has the energy and ebay/gumtree/freecycle experience to sell, give to charity or parishioners or take to the dump all the stuff we have in the hall and garages that has for decades been kept as may be useful one day.)

6 Strategy and Other Comments

We hope and expect that things will return to ‘normal’, whatever that is, but you will wish to know that a number of longer term options have been built into this proposal to ensure that it does not obstruct them. For example:

- Post Covid we hope that the parish hall renters will return and that a profitable community asset can be re-energised. Building the Parish Room is in no way a substitute or replacement for our hall which is totally different in scale. But if at some time in the future the parish and diocese decide to sell the hall and land, then we have designed and placed the new Parish Room so as to enable a bigger or two part hall to be developed alongside the church.

- If, heaven forbid we don’t have a resident priest or community at some stage, then we have designed the new facilities in a way that they don’t intrude with the option of letting the Presbytery. The new room does not intrude into the garden and line of site of any tenants and there is minimum structural interface between the Presbytery and the new build.

- Finally, if you are wondering whether this is a crazy time to be spending money on buildings, just listen to the chancellor who agrees with our donors, that the best possible thing people can do, if they have any money that can be used charitably, is to spend it supporting local labour intensive projects to bring work and dignity to people.

    Message from the Metropolitan Archbishops of the Catholic Church in England

    Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

    Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

    On Tuesday we heard the announcement that, from 4th July this year, places of worship will be able to reopen for prayers and services. We welcome this news with great joy. Since the lockdown began, members of all faiths have faced restrictions on how they have been able to celebrate...... read more

    Public Masses and an End to the Eucharistic Fast

    The government is easing lockdown rules from 4th July. The guidelines from the Bishop’s Conference allow us to celebrate public Masses and other services from Sunday 5th July under strict conditions. Though the official social distancing rule is for one meter plus, we shall try our best to maintain the two-meter rule. Fr Mathew will be personally setting up for all masses with no other person touching the sacred vessels or the bread and wine. Readers are asked to read from their own missals or from the newsletter. Everybody should take the newsletter home as these will be for single use only. Hand sanitiser dispensers have been fitted either side of the inner entrance door. The Holy Water stoups will be empty.

    We cannot have a sensible one-way system in church due to the way it is designed. Therefore, regarding communion, Fr Mathew will follow the second option for the distribution of Holy Communion given by the bishops. After the prayer "Behold the Lamb of God..." and its response "Lord, I am not worthy..." Fr Mathew will elevate the host to the congregation and say "The Body of Christ" to which the people respond "Amen". In a similar way Fr Mathew will then elevate the chalice and say "The Blood of Christ" to which the people again respond "Amen". Fr Mathew will then receive Holy Communion himself using his own host and chalice. After cleaning the sacred vessels, there will be a short period of reverent silence before the Prayer after Communion, blessing and dismissal. Those not receiving Holy Communion themselves should then leave the church, observing the 2 metre social distancing rule as they do so. Those who are to receive Holy Communion will then be invited to come forward to the altar by the central aisle, again maintaining 2 metre social distancing, receive the consecrated host from Fr Mathew in their hands with palms upwards one on top of the other and with arms at "full stretch" to maintain a good distance. Once they have received Holy Communion, each communicant should immediately leave the church by either side aisle observing the 2 meter social distancing as they depart.There will be no blessing for children or adults not receiving Holy Communion.

    On Sunday, 5th July we will follow our usual Mass times of 8.00 am 10.00 am and 6.00 pm. Each Mass will be shorter than usual with a very short homily and no bidding prayers. There will be no offertory procession and no hymns will be sung at the 10:00 Mass. There is no upper limit for numbers as long as we keep the social distancing rules. Members from the same household can sit together. If congregation size demands, an additional Mass can be celebrated either on Saturday evening or Sunday at 11.00 am until the pandemic is over.

    There will be no collection taken, but an offertory box will be at the back of the church where people can place their offering either as they come in or when they leave.

    As you know, the Sunday obligation to attend Mass is currently suspended and that will remain the case for the foreseeable future. This will help those parishioners who feel vulnerable, who may choose to come to Mass on a weekday when there are far fewer attendees than there are on Sundays.

    The church will be open from 10:00 am until 12 noon each day for private prayer and you are welcome to telephone to make an appointment for any other time for private prayer and Fr Mathew will be happy to open the church for you.

    If you have any questions or concerns, please use the contact form to submit your comment.

    A Prayer For Those Affected by Covid-19

    God our Father, Creator of the world, almighty and merciful, out of love for us You sent your Son into the world as the doctor of our souls and our bodies. Look upon your children who, in this difficult time of confusion and dismay in many regions of Europe and the world, turn to you seeking strength, salvation and relief. Deliver us from illness and fear, heal our sick, comfort their families, give wisdom to our rulers, energy and reward to our doctors, nurses and volunteers and eternal life to the dead. Do not abandon us in the moment of trial but deliver us from all evil. We ask this of Thee, who with the Son and the Holy Spirit, live and reign for ever and ever. Amen.
    Mary, mother of health and hope, pray for us!

    Parish Communications

    During the lockdown period, an email distribution list was created and regular news updates were sent out to people who had registered their email address with the parish. However, the total number of registered emails was only 89 and as this lockdown showed, when we are not meeting at church, then this is one of a very few ways in which we can keep in touch. If you have the capability to receive emails, you are encouraged to register your address with the parish so that you can be kept updated in these sorts of situations.

    We also established a parish WhatsApp group for information sharing and updates, but only 16 people registered for that, perhaps because they did not know about it as we had no way of getting in touch to advertise it!

    Finally, the parish web site was kept up to date and the Facebook page (@marymagdalens) was used to provide information and updates.

    If you would like to register your email address, or would like further information on the parish social media platforms, please speak to Fr Mathew or use the contact form.

    The Ipswich Blessing

    Dozens of people from churches across Ipswich have come together to sing a song about unity and hope. Members of 43 Christian church denominations from the town have recorded themselves singing along to the song The Blessing by Elevation Worship.
    Performers who were involved in the project include members of Hope Church Ipswich, Rushmere Baptist Church, Trinity Praise Centre, Waterfront Churches and Holly Lodge Baptist Church, and our own Lucy Pakes among many more.
    The project was organised by Rev. Amy Key and her husband Matt, of St Augustine’s Church in Ipswich, and aims to bring hope and comfort to the community during the Coronavirus lockdown. Matt, who previously worked in music production, said: “We were hugely inspired by The UK Blessing which quickly went viral. It has had more than three million views. There was lots of talk about churches working together and being there for their community, so we thought it would be wonderful to replicate it in Ipswich as a message of hope to our town’s residents".
    You can listen to the Ipswich Blessing on YouTube here.

    Ignite Virtual Festival

    Last weekend saw the Ignite Youth Festival which took place on-line due to the Coronavirus restrictions. You can read about the event on the Diocesan web site and see videos of some of the sessions.

    Side By Side

    The Spring 2020 edition of Side by Side, the CAFOD magazine, is out now. This edition contains some interesting reading including an update on CAFOD's Lent 2019 appeal, an article on climate change, saving for a "no rain" day in Kenya, traditional healing power in Columbia and tips on living a simple life.

    Click on the image left to read the magazine.

    Parish Finances

    We now have about 21 parishioners making their offering via standing order, an increase from the pre-lockdown total of 8. However, the offertory total for April came to £900 compared to a normal monthly average of £2000. Enough said! If you are able to change your offering to standing order its not too late. Details of the parish account are as follows:

    St Mary Magdalen Roman Catholic Parish
    Barclays Bank plc, Ipswich, Princes Street branch
    Sort code: 20-44-51
    Account number: 70777323

    Children's Liturgy During Lockdown

    If you have children or grandchildren, there is a nice Facebook page you can visit which offers short services aimed at children for the Sundays during the lockdown. The page can be found here. The latest video, for the 4th Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday, can be found here.