This is a three-phase upgrade project, originally involving only St Nicholas Otham but now including both churches.
St. Nicholas, Otham was notoriously cold in winter. This led to the undertaking of a review which ultimately led to the Open Church Project. An application was made to the Diocese under their Funding Mission Initiative Scheme and the project was envisaged as having three distinct phases.
The first was to provide heating and flexible seating; the second was to add a glassed-off prayer/meeting/crèche space in the Lady Chapel; the third was to create a new kitchen area beyond the re-opened fourteenth century north door of the church.
A grant was obtained from the Diocese and fund-raising was undertaken locally. The Friends of Otham Church offered financial support and paid for a new organ. All the work on phases one and two was completed in 2009.
Phase three, which includes not only a kitchen but also possibly adding another meeting room (the parish lost its one parish meeting room when the old Vicarage was sold during the last interregnum) will, we hope, begin shortly. However, the project has been renamed the ‘Open Churches Project’ because we also wish to undertake some work at St. Mary’s, Langley, including a serious upgrade of the kitchen facility there, plus a new porch, as well as possibly doing something with the limited space in the vestry and the room at the back where the tower is.
The object in both cases is to make the churches more user-friendly, and available for a wider range of functions beyond the normal pattern of Sunday services and occasional offices. We wish, in Langley and in Otham, to have the church at the heart of the community and the community at the heart of the church, and to have the churches open and available for community use as much as possible.