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Why is there so much church chair controversy?

by Tola Mbakwe

For All Saints Church in Higher Walton its chairs caused a stir after it replaced its pews with new bright orange seats.

The change came with backlash from the Victorian Society, accusing the church of not keeping the historical look of the church. However, after going to a diocese court, the church now gets to keep its chairs.

All Saints Higher Walton Church of England Church

Russell Clynch, senior commercial manager for Treske Church Furniture, told Premier why church chairs can be controversial at times.

He said: "There are two different elements to reordering a church.

"One is what is good for the church and the building and the architecture within church.

"The other one is what good is for the congregation and the people actually using the space.

"Sometimes they come out with two completely different answers."

Working with church architects, clergy, congregations and heritage and conservation bodies such as the Historic Churches Conservation Trust, Treske has spent 30 years refurbishing churches, chapels, sanctuaries and serveries.

Treske Church Furniture
Bray Chantry, Windsor

Clynch said churches increasingly want to get away from pews to enable flexible use of its building.

He told Premier: "Very often pews that were put in the Victorian era have reached the end of their useful life.

"Often we go into churches where pews are eaten by wood worm or they've gotten damp over a period of time and they've started to fall apart.

"Churches want to be flexible, they want to welcome everyone into to the space and often old churches cannot be used by disabled people in wheelchairs.

"They are not welcoming to all members of the community and the congregation. So flexibility and ease of access is very much a big thing."

Treske Church Furniture
Holy Trinity, Bradford on Avon

However, Clynch told Premier it is possible to have your cake and eat it too when it comes to keeping the historical look of a church with new furniture.

He said: "We just helped a church in Bradford on Avon to reorder and we put in solid oak chairs and solid oak benches, all of which can be can be moved and all of which can be stacked and easily moved around and reconfigured."

Listen to Russell Clynch speaking with Premier's Alex Williams here:

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