In August 2018, the Appeal team launched a Wivenhoe-wide Survey which was promoted extensively to find out the views of local residents to better understand how much support there is for the Transformation Project. Some 285 people responded to the Survey, most electronically. Over half of these people had been to St Mary’s for a church service; nearly two-thirds had attended a christening, wedding or a funeral, and 75% had been to a social function such as the June or December Market. Only 26 people who responded had little reason to visit the Church. (See below for a link to the Survey results).
I think it is fair to conclude that St Mary’s is better used than many people realise. For example 331 people (132 children & 199 adults) attended the Christingle Service on 2nd December. Certainly the survey said that 83% of people agreed that adding an Annexe with a Community Room was either a good or a very good thing. 86% of respondents agreed that with better facilities, St Mary’s could do more for the people of Wivenhoe.
When asked about the pews and the use of the Nave area, only 52 people out of 285 people said they were against the taking out the pews and replacing them with chairs to provide more flexible seating arrangements, and only 24 people strongly disagreed. This is not surprising. Rev Erwin Lammens and I have been aware of several people who have made their views plain to us. I have also been conscious of those people who were initially against this proposal but who have come to see the opportunities it offers for wider use. The Church is the largest building in Wivenhoe and could be used by more people. I don’t want to see it used like a community centre or a village hall. First and foremost it is a church and its primary purpose must always be worship. However, to my mind that purpose does not conflict with some other activities. I think everyone has got used to the idea of markets, quiz nights, meals and concerts also being held in St Mary’s. They have been happening in there for a long time. As one person said in the survey: ‘I like pews because that’s what I grew up with, but [I]can see the benefits of changing.’ Many other churches have all benefited from replacing their fixed pews and seen their buildings being used by more people in consequence.
Chairman, St Mary’s Transformation Project Appeal Team