Church of England 'faith revolution' has left Preston Minster needing more space for worship

A £1.5m "faith revolution" at Preston Minster is proving so successful that the Church of England says it has outgrown the historic building.

By Brian Ellis
Wednesday, 20th October 2021, 9:46 am

New plans for a temporary annexe on grass at the rear of the church have been submitted to the city council to provide space for children and young people's worship.

Church officials say there is an "urgent need" for more accommodation to cater for a boom in attendances since the Grade II* listed Minster underwent a radical change of style two years ago aimed at a younger audience.

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The rear of the Minster where the temporary annexe could be built.

When the new Vicar of Preston Rev Sam Haigh took over in September 2019 the church's congregation was dwindling. Now Sunday services, featuring guitars, drums and keyboard, average 165 worshippers, a figure which is expected to grow to around 400 in the next two years.

The Minster is hoping to build a permanent annexe within five years, subject to funding. So in the meantime it has asked for planning permission to place a temporary modular cabin in the churchyard at the back to bridge that gap.

"Preston Minster is now a young and fast-growing church," says a planning statement. "The church has continued to grow through the Covid-19 pandemic.

"It is anticipated that the Minster will grow to an average congregation of 200 to 250 by mid-2022 .... and is set to grow to around 400 in the next two years.

Vicar of Preston Rev Sam Haigh, pictured with his wife Hannah, has overseen a boom in attendances.

"A significant proportion of this growth is children and young people, creating an urgent need for ancillary space to accommodate this alongside the Sunday service."

The report says that despite a "thriving children's ministry" the Minster only has space for up to 25 children.

It says that the lack of space has placed "great strains" on the facilities, offset during the summer by the erection of a marquee at the rear of the church. But with winter approaching the need for indoor accommodation "is becoming increasingly urgent."

Previous plans to site a temporary church hall in the grounds made of steel shipping containers were abandoned after they were seen to be inappropriate next to an historic church.

The Minster expects it could take at least two years to raise funds to pay for a permanent annexe building in the churchyard and up to a further two years to construct a new building. So the planning application for a temporary cabin is for a five year period only.

Other options explored by the church included a request to either rent or buy the adjacent Warehouse Nightclub, but that was turned down. Talks to use a derelict warehouse in St John's

Place broke down over legal issues. And Premier House across Church Street was looked at but deemed unsuitable.

The change of direction came in 2019 when £1.5m of funding was allocated to transform the Church of England in Preston and re-invigorate the Minster. A radical style of worship was introduced, while more traditional services were switched to its sister church St George's off Lune Street.

The new Vicar, a former car mechanic, promised a "significant shift" in style with contemporary services, reaching out to people under 25, particularly the city's huge student population.

Since lockdown was lifted and the church has been able to return to live worship, the attendances have been steadily growing.