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Reverend Michael Resch's plans to remove pews at Holy Trinity Church in Sittingbourne blocked by judge

A vicar’s bid to replace the traditional pews in his church has been blocked by a judge.

Reverend Michael Resch sought permission to replace the original Victorian seating at Holy Trinity Church in Sittingbourne with metal-framed chairs.

“We are a growing church and we run a number of community events, so we need more flexibility,” Rev Resch explained.

Holy Trinity Church, Sittingbourne
Holy Trinity Church, Sittingbourne

“It’s our belief that the building is there to serve us, not for us to serve the building.”

Rev Resch also felt that chairs would enable services to focus on different areas, for example the font for baptisms.

The church has previously applied to remove pews from the back of the church, and this was approved.

This space is now used for regular lunch clubs and quizzes, which have proved very popular.

Rev Resch said: “The space at the back of the church can take up to 100 people but we have more than 200 people coming to the church, and we want to invite people from the community in as well. Already the building is limiting what we can do.”

Rev Mike Resch
Rev Mike Resch

The Church Street building is 148-years-old and Grade-II listed, and as such leaders have to seek permission to make changes from the Church of England’s Commissary Court of Canterbury.

A hearing determined the pews could not be removed.

Steven Gasztowicz QC, deputy commissary general of the Canterbury diocese, argued that the removal of the seats, which are original features, along with two clergy stalls, which were installed in 1919 to commemorate those who died in the First World War, would “result in harm to it as a building of special historical interest”.

Rev Resch was unhappy with the outcome.

“It’s about finding the balance between maintaining historical integrity and being able to serve the community. This is not the result we wanted, we felt we had got the balance right,” he said.

“It would cost far too much to appeal the decision, so we need to look at trying to get the balance right in other ways.”

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