A TIME OF RADICAL CHANGE
In 2014 the Rector of Southover, Rev. Steve Daughtery, put forward an ambitious scheme to amalgamate that church with St John’s and South Malling to create one new church and parish, which would be called ‘Trinity’. At the same time he proposed remodelling St John’s to be suitable for both Sunday worship and midweek activities and lettings. The scheme received strong backing from Chichester Diocese, and after much discussion over several years it was unanimously agreed by the members of all three churches in 2017. Finance for the scheme was made possible when the Diocese offered half the proceeds of the earlier sale of St John’s Rectory in the Avenue, to which was to be added the proceeds from the disposal of St John’s Church Hall in Talbot Terrace.
The plans drawn up involved the removal of almost all the pews and choir stalls, the taking down of the chancel screen, the removal of the pulpit and Victorian font, and the transfer of the medieval font to the porch. A new gallery was to be installed across the back of the church, joining the side galleries. The nave, with a new floor, was to be separated by a glass partition from a new meeting area at the back of the church, where a new kitchen would be built, to create what would become a cafe for use during the week as well as on Sundays. The porch area was to be reshaped, and additional toilets were to be installed.
At the same time a programme of total structural repair was drawn up, with a new slate roof, stonework restoration and drainage renewal. The cost of this was covered by large grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund, together with other grants from charitable bodies.
The work was carried out over a three-year period, and was completed at the end of 2017. The result is, effectively, a new church building of the highest quality. Not only the building but also the congregation was renewed. As part of the amalgamation, a Sunday morning all-age service which had outgrown Southover’s Church Hall was transferred to St John’s. Here it has brought new life and new numbers, with the existing more traditional worship continuing alongside in the afternoons.
St John’s has, amazingly, been totally transformed to serve the Kingdom of God and the community in the twenty-first century.
Visit The Story of St John sub Castro Church to see the complete story in one post, together with Sources, Bibliographical notes and List of Rectors.