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Open Parish Meeting
16th May 2006

Introduction: Kevin Jamieson, chairman of the Parish Finance Committee, chaired the meeting with Father Kieron O'Brien, Parish Priest. Kevin introduced the two topics for discussion this evening:
1. The Financial Report for 2005, circulated last weekend with the newsletter and
2. The proposed alterations to St. Richard's Church.

Opening Prayer: Father Kieron used the Prayers for the Dedication of a Church and its consecration. These express our beliefs and the relationship between the symbolic and religious aspects of our faith and are most appropriate in the light of our discussions this evening.

Apologies for Absence: David and Pauline White, Wendy Cartey & Father Thomas Swaffer.

Financial Report:

Gerry Farrell (Parish treasurer) started with the Year 2000 Fund. Last year the asset base for this fund was 181,000. Last week this stood at 211,000 with a specific growth of 16.6% over the year. A very good growth rate achieved after 11,500 was spent on church maintenance and repairs in St. Richard's Church and Bosham. The market now appears to be affected by Iraq and the US economy and commodity prices and investments. This means that oil prices are up, energy costs have increased and further inflation is on the increase. This unsettles the market. 211,000 is now valued at 201,000 today. This helps us to focus on the vagaries of the market.

Gift Aid:

Kevin Jamieson had some serious points to make: It provides the Parish with a vital source of income but there are still income tax payers within the parish who do not use the Gift Aid system, which enables us to reclaim tax already paid on your donations. Over the last year the Diocese has reclaimed 1.1 million of which 18,000 was for our parish. Even if you do not attend Mass here, it is still possible to gift aid your donations by using your envelopes, which are then returned to us to make the claim. If you feel you cannot give much, that does not matter. Every contribution helps and gives us the opportunity to reclaim the tax. He stressed that income is a sensitive area, but confidentiality is key to the system. Only two people in the parish know the system. Even the clergy do not know who gives what. At the end of each year, there is significant interest in the amount we claim back. In 2005 we received 2,000 LESS than the previous year. This occurs because parishioners move away from the parish, or retire and no longer pay tax, and very few newcomers join the scheme. Kevin invited anyone who was interested to talk to him, in confidence, if they are interested in joining the scheme.

Father Kieron thanked the Finance and Buildings Committees and the Year 2000 Fund committee. Although their work is for the most part invisible, it is most essential for the smooth working of the parish.

The Proposed Extension to St. Richard's Church.

Father Kieron took us through the process so far. The flyer issued earlier this month with the parish newsletter, depicted an artistic impression of the concept with a short description of what the next stage might be. Members of the Project Group (most of whom are present this evening) are seeking feedback from this meeting to see if the scheme is viable and worth taking to the next stage and the launch of an appeal. Why extend the church? Three years ago a group of parishioners met to get a better understanding of the ministry of Welcome, with Martin Foster who works for the Liturgy Office of the Bishops' Conference. As a result of this study day, we were encouraged to walk around the site and see the church through the eyes of visitors. Is it welcoming? First impressions? No, not good. The Church is an odd shape and the small dark porch does not provide a good gathering area. Ideas were mulled over and a canopy was suggested for the outside of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.


Helen Cookson: how much will it cost? Why not go the whole hog and extend right out on both sides?

Father Kieron: A provisional figure at this stage is 400,000. A more ambitious project would be more costly. It is envisaged that the present scheme will be adequate for our needs.

Barry Buck: Are there any disadvantages to becoming a listed building?

Father Kieron: it increases the number of 'hoops to jump through' when obtaining permission to build but in all probability such an extension would not cause any problems.

Michael Purcell: We accept the glory of the stained glass windows. Would any new windows not live up to the old and may indeed compromise or even detract from them?

Father Kieron: This is a fair point which would be given serious consideration, should the scheme go any further.

Maire Wells: Would the church be closed during alterations?

Father Kieron: This depends on many factors and is a detail that would be considered once the scheme is agreed.

John Hutchings: Skylights would be more pleasing and provide improved natural lighting.

Philip Griffin: Extra seating: would it be enough for the next millennium? There is a lot of extra housing proposed in the Chichester area.

Father Kieron: We would be providing a modest increase but it is the best we can hope for at this stage.

Mike Beal: We need to agree the plan at this stage. Would it not be possible to take the sanctuary back by about six feet to provide more seating? We should find solutions and go ahead with the project.

Father Kieron explained that anything we planned must be approved by the Arts and Architecture Committee and would need to leave us capable of adding further extensions. Lack of space for this meeting and social occasions suggest we could make better use of the whole site (including the house and garden and parish rooms) and move the clergy elsewhere.

Ziggi Janiec: The emphasis on symmetry and the external of the building does not seem to take into account the usability of the space inside. Two proposed blocks of seating: one would be facing the Blessed Sacrament Chapel and the other the North Transept. We should concentrate on how we are going to use the internal space without complete demolition, which may require compromise. The original usability and practicality of the first design was dismissed by the A & A Committee. These points were taken but the new design does not seem to offer a solution.

Yvonne Bishop: Will the pillars remain when the walls are pushed back and how will this affect the visibility?

Father Kieron: The pillars are the main structure of the building so will remain.

Maria Whitehouse: Disabled access - will this be increased?

Father Kieron: We are bound by regulations to include this provision in the new plan. There are strict legal guidelines with which we must comply.

Sarah Madden: Acoustics are currently very bad in both galleries.

Father Kieron: This would be addressed with a new sound system when the building has been completed.

Gentlemen of the Road: what provision would be made for them as the space outside the chapel would be removed?

Father Kieron: They are recognized by the Chichester Christian Care Association, which provides a wide range of services for the homeless and we encourage them to access these facilities. It is always a delicate balance between encouraging them to continue with their particular way of life and exercising care and charity towards them. There is continuing dialogue with CCCA and the District Council over this issue.

David Owgan: If the entrance to the chapel disappears, so surely will this problem. If we enclose the whole area, should we be pushing them away?

Father Kieron: in the overall plan, there would be a new entrance to the chapel where the present reconciliation room is currently situated.

Patsy Cox: Could the seating in the gallery over the chapel be tiered to provide more seating? The front view of the church looks rather like a cinema.

Father Kieron: Tiered seating may be a considered option. The final design is not set yet.

Geoff Poulter: Providing an extra 60 seats may be better met with flexible seating, rather than benches.

Father Kieron: This is a very good point and, although we have not yet reached that level of detail, many modern, new-build churches have flexible seating to provide more accommodation.

Hazel Johnston: Would there be only one door to the church?

Father Kieron: The main entrance would remain in the same place. There would be a new entrance to the side chapel (as detailed above.)

Helen Cookson: Our church is on a prime piece of valuable land in the City centre. Could we not demolish the church, parish rooms, presbytery and school and re-locate?

Father Kieron: This has been mentioned before. It may be difficult to find another suitable and large enough location. For some, it would remove the symbolic presence of the Catholic Church in the city and was a proposal in 1994 when the Carmelite Convent in Hunston was to be vacated. It should be considered as another option.

John Hutchings: The new entrance to the chapel would be next to the sanctuary and may be treated irreverently by those entering and leaving (ie. chatting.) Is this a level of detail still to be decided? Would there be a porch area constructed to prevent this happening?

Father Kieron: Yes.

Maria Whitehouse: have these current plans been approved by the Diocesan Art & Architectural Committee?

Father Kieron: Yes. There has also been an unofficial indication from the Local Authority that such a scheme would get planning permission

Molly Morgan: Could we take some of the school land to extend our site?

Father Kieron: The school is at its limit with its playing field ratio to pupil numbers, so this is not a possibility.

David Owgan: The artistic design looks sound and ethical and provides us with a good compromise.

Brian Pointer (PPG): The Steering Group approached the A & A Committee and several points were made. The aesthetic nature of the extension is important as the site is well exposed and the look of it is important for Catholics and passers-by alike. It should be the church in the wider community. This is a significant building which is seen by and attracts people and has been hidden too long. (The lowering of the hedge was a significant improvement.) The current front and entrance into the church is dull and dismal.

Martin Downy: The narthex and porch area: This should be kept clear for meeting and greeting, the key features of the place. Are we being ambitious enough?

Father Kieron: There is always the danger of yet another place becoming cluttered through established usage, decor etc.

John Hutchings: Could the design extend out further to provide more space?

Father Kieron: the access to the Nursery must be kept wide enough to give emergency vehicles enough space. Again, these are details of the final design.

Susan Line: Could the current, existing porch be extended to the end of the building on either side and thereby give us more space?

Father Kieron: This is a possibility.

Brian Taylor (Chairman, Building subcommittee): I wish to underline the point about the site being active and a vigorous parish which is part of the community. It should be welcoming and seen to be an active, busy building. Some of the areas on the drawing are glazed; others are brick and blockwork, so there are a variety of finishes. Once again, these are details.

Father Kieron: To sum up: yes, there are a lot of 'negotiables' and a lot of details to be confirmed. Our mandate to move forward would be to brief our architect with firm plans and take a serious look at the funding possibilities followed by the launching of an appeal. Should we take it to the next stage?

A show of hands of those present (56 in total) showed the majority present gave their overwhelming approval for the scheme to move forward.

The meeting concluded at 9pm with wine and light refreshments provided in the parish rooms.