£3.5 million makeover for charismatic renewal church

A PROMINENT church in York that was at the centre of a charismatic revival in the 1970s is to be the focus of a multi-million pound refurbishment.

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) is calling on teams from around the world to reconfigure St Michael le Belfrey, situated next to York Minster.

Now hosting a congregation of more than 800, the historic church dates from the early 16thcentury. However, it is also sited near to where the Emperor Constantine was proclaimed a Roman Emperor. It is also known as the church where Guy Fawkes of the Gunpowder Plot was baptised in 1570.

This project is all about making our historic church building better suited for worship and mission in the 21st Century

In more recent times the church experienced dramatic growth under the leadership of David Watson and the congregation outgrew the building. It was merged with St Cuthbert’s, and it became known as a centre for charismatic renewal.

The RIBA plan is to refurbish and reorder the Grade-I listed church to transform the popular venue into a ‘welcoming, accessible and warm church environment, with a flexible interior arrangement which remains faithful to its heritage.’

Five shortlisted teams, all led by architects but bringing in other disciplines, will receive £7,000 to take part in the design phase. The total amount planned for the refurbishment is £3.5 million.

The Vicar, the Rev Matthew Porter, said: “This project is all about making our historic church building better suited for worship and mission in the 21st Century; being better equipped so we, and future generations, can even more effectively worship God and reach out with the love of Christ, to York and beyond.”

RIBA’s adviser on the project, Keith Williams, described the church as an ‘absolute gem’.

“Dating from the early 16th century, St Michael le Belfrey exhibits many layers of architectural intervention as patterns of worship and social structures have evolved over time,” he said.

“The great challenge set out in this competition is to create the new legacy, the 21st century architectural intervention which will facilitate evolving patterns of worship for now and for generations to come.”

Ironically, one of the major challenges for the architects will be repairing the church’s belfry.