A year ago, I finished a piece on the church building project in the Steeple Aston Life with these words: “Lots of work to do. Lots of money to raise. Lots of good to be achieved - that’s why the PCC and I are committed to doing our best to make this happen, and if we fail, to know that it wasn’t for lack of prayer or trying.” Throughout Steeple and Middle Aston I have had so many conversations since then, and I have never ceased to be grateful to be Rector in a community where people care so much about the village and its church. Thank you to everyone who has written, spoken, given and taken time to be a part of this journey. We continue to pray and to work hard!
These things always take longer than we want, but the big news this month is that the DAC - the Diocesan Advisory Committee, the body in the diocese charged with care of historic church buildings has now decided to support our project.
Last summer, the DAC came to Steeple and asked us to re-think some aspects of our proposals. Officers of the DAC came back in November, and again in January, and the PCC worked with them to achieve a compromise that addressed a full list of heritage issues, while still fulfilling our aims. On the whole we believe through this collaborative process, we have come up with an even better project for the church and our village.
Working with others has always been the way forward. We had independent heritage experts draw up reports - just this week, they’ve been back in the Benefice, and again commended our project. We have had two of the national amenity bodies with care of historic buildings come and visit us as well. Historic England wrote a positive report but asked us to think carefully about certain aspects; the Church Buildings Council came after the series of meetings with the DAC and commended us for that process and supported our project wholeheartedly.
The DAC’s decision to support the project is great - but it isn’t a green light. We still have to get a ‘Faculty’ - a sort of ecclesiastical planning permission. And because we want to put better paths in the churchyard, we need actual planning permission too. The DAC are supporting the project, but have asked us to work up full technical drawings with them, which means that we have to work up more finances first, and then: Faculty.
For now, life goes on as normal. The building is open every day. Worship happens every Sunday. The bells ring over the village, those who tend the grounds keep the place looking great, people care for the sick and the lonely and we all try to love God and each other. If we get to do the work we want - what changes? Our hope is for more worship, more praise, more beauty, more care, more love. For everyone. Everyday.
And on the way, when we’ve done some more work with the DAC and in our community, the open evening we offered last year (before the DAC visits) will eventually be re-arranged. Indeed the PCC are planning an exhibition weekend, with lots of information so that the whole village will have a chance to see and understand and explore everything that's being planned, with a time for questions and feedback. I hope with the churchwardens to be in a position to apply for a Faculty before the year’s end.
Please keep talking, writing, asking questions - praying, giving and helping. This project depends on our village being passionate - passionate about a God who loves people, all people, and passionate in making our amazing building available to all people here in this village so it can be the best version of itself possible for many, many years to come.
If you would like to give to our Building Fund please make out a cheque to "Steeple Aston Church" and send it to The Steeple Aston Church Building Fund, c/o The Rectory, Fir Lane, Steeple Aston OX25 4SF. Thank you!