Greyfriars Church, Reading
Greyfriars' Church on Friar Street
|Location||Reading, Berkshire, England|
|Website||Greyfriars Church website|
|Heritage designation||Grade I|
|Diocese||Diocese of Oxford|
|Minister(s)||Reverend Canon Jonathan Wilmot|
Greyfriars Church is an evangelical Anglican church, and former Franciscan friary, in the town centre of Reading in the English county of Berkshire. The church forms part of the Church of England's Diocese of Oxford.
It is the oldest Franciscan church still in use as a place of worship in the UK, and is said to be the most complete surviving example of Franciscan architecture in England. As a consequence, it has been listed as a Grade I listed building by English Heritage.
- 1 History
- 2 Greyfriars today
- 3 See also
- 4 References
- 5 External links
As a friary
The Franciscan order of friars first arrived in Reading in 1233 with the intention of creating a community to minister to the poor and the oppressed. This arrival was not welcomed by the established Reading Abbey, but the fact that the friars had royal patronage meant that Adam de Lathbury, the then abbot, was obliged to assist.
Initially the friars were granted a site alongside the road to Caversham Bridge, and by 1259 had erected a friary there, complete with church, chapter house, dormitory and refectory. However the site proved prone to flooding, impeding the ability of the friars to undertake their ministry. Eventually John Peckham, who was both the Archbishop of Canterbury and a fellow Franciscan, intervened and by 1285 a new site had been obtained at the west end of what is now Friar Street.
As a secular building
At the time of the dissolution, the town of Reading was administered from a guild hall known as the Yield Hall, situated beside the River Kennet close to today's Yield Hall Lane. However by the middle of the 16th century this had proved too small. The mayor, along with Thomas Vachell of Coley Park, petitioned the king to grant the nave and aisles of the church for use as a town hall. In 1543, this petition was granted. The remainder of the church and friary, together with the adjoining grounds, were sold to Robert Stanshawe, after whom the nearby Stanshawe Road is named.
However Greyfriars did not prove a successful town hall, and some twenty years later the council created a new town hall by inserting an upper floor into the refectory of the Hospitium of St John, the former hospitium of Reading Abbey. This was to remain the site of Reading's civic administration, through the successive re-buildings that eventually created today's Reading Town Hall, until the move to Reading Civic Centre in the 1970s.
Thereafter Greyfriars was used successively as a hospital for the poor (1578) and a house of correction for the punishment of idle or vagrant people (1590). In the 18th century it became the town's jail. By the middle of the 19th century only the walls survived, and the derelict structure was in danger of collapse.
As a parish church
The church was restored around 1863 by the then Reading Borough Surveyor, W H Woodman. The original building is constructed from squared and knapped flints with a stone plinth and buttresses. The tiled roof sweeps down over aisles, and the church has a three bay nave. The large transept and triple arched belfry were added to the church by Woodman. The nave has segmental headed 3 light windows of plain decorated style and an extremely fine west window of 5 lights, in a decorated style with reticulated tracery. The interior is spacious, with a crown post and wind brace roof supported on original cruciform and quadriblobe shafts. The font and pulpit date from the restoration.
The Memorial Hall, a building seating about fifty opens both to the north side of the Church and to Sackville Street, was constructed in the early twentieth century. It can be divided into three rooms.
The Vicarage building was re-built in 1961-62 with the outward appearance of the original Georgian town house, but with a modern interior. It has now been purchased from the diocese, together with its garden, by the congregation of Greyfriars to be used for the mission of the church, initially as a Day Nursery.
Attached to the main church building is the West End, which was constructed in the 1970s to create an entrance foyer and a semi-circular lounge with seating for 100-150. Moveable screens allow for it to be divided into four smaller areas. There are also a small kitchen and toilets. The Greyfriars Centre, adjacent to the Church, was completed in 1983 and consists of a general purpose hall for sports and other activities, a coffee lounge with kitchen, bookshop, two meeting rooms, the Church office, toilets and showers.
In 2000, the church's interior was reordered and modernised. The Victorian pews were replaced with movable seating to allow greater flexibility in the building's use, such as the large dinners which launch the church's Alpha Courses. The pulpit was moved to the rear of the nave. A baptistery was also installed, so that new believers may be welcomed into the church family through adult baptism. Previously, a mobile baptistery had to be hired when required.
The church family meets in the building over the course of three services each Sunday. Each of these services is based around an expository talk from the Bible, together with an opportunity to respond to the talk and encourage one another through sung worship. The afternoon service(4:30pm) tends to have a more contemplative, traditional style, while the evening meeting (7pm) is more 'lively', both seeking to glorify God in response to His word in their different ways.
The morning service (starting at 10:30am) is attended by many families, and thus provides a creche, and a group called Trekkers for children aged 3 to 11, helping them to explore the Bible in small classes. 11- to 14-year-old children meet in a group called Pathfinders, also during the morning service. Older teenagers attend Crossroads before the evening service, and Open Space (a cell group that meets at New Hope Community Church) during the week. The creche and Trekkers are currently coordinated by children's worker Carol Atkins, and Pathfinders and Crossroads are organised by Youth Worker Heather Lewis.
Through the week
Many members of the church family meet up during the week in Home Groups organised throughout Reading. Meeting in smaller numbers allows people to encourage each other more personally, through studying a passage from Bible and praying for one another, as well as for wider issues.
Around 100 people in the 20s and 30s age range are part of a group called Connect, which runs cell groups similar to the Home Groups described above.
The church also runs a variety of groups through the week, such as Time Out for women, a toddlers group, Tuesday Special for people with learning difficulties, and Wednesday Welcome for more mature folk.
Verse for the year
Each year the church leadership decides on a verse for the year based on where they feel God is leading the church in the coming year. The verse for 2014 is Matthew 22:37-39 "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind ... and love your neighbour as yourself."
The Alpha Course
Greyfriars runs an annual Alpha Course to allow people to explore the claims of Jesus for themselves in a non-threatening environment.
The ten-week course runs each Autumn, and is housed in the church. This allows for a large group of people to gather together to hear the main presentation and then to discuss the content in smaller groups.
In January and April Alpha courses are begun in homes around Reading, which provide a more intimate setting.
The church also hosts monthly outreach days where anybody is welcome to come into the church building. These provide an opportunity for church members to serve the local community, through discussing their faith, praying, and providing a listening ear.
The Prayer Café offers worship through fellowship and prayer, and also functions as a refreshment café. It is open late morning on the second Saturday of each month.
Prayer Stop, the smaller, quieter sister of Prayer Café, was started to offer prayer for those working in Reading during the week. It usually happens on the Friday after Prayer Café every month and runs from 12.30 to 2.30pm. People are invited off the street to receive prayer for whatever they are now going through, whether it's illness, problems at home or unemployment. They are then given the option to have their names and prayer request on a confidential list which is given to a team of intercessors to pray about over the next two month.
- "Greyfriars Church, Reading". British Listed Buildings. Retrieved 3 June 2011.
- "Images of England - Greyfriars Church, Friar Street, Reading". English Heritage. Retrieved 2007-11-28.
- Phillips, Daphne (1980). The Story of Reading. Countryside Books. p. 32. ISBN 0-905392-07-8.
- "Greyfriars Church - History". Greyfriars Church PCC. Retrieved 2007-11-28.
- Phillips, Daphne (1980). The Story of Reading. Countryside Books. p. 37. ISBN 0-905392-07-8.
- Phillips, Daphne (1980). The Story of Reading. Countryside Books. p. 42. ISBN 0-905392-07-8.
- Phillips, Daphne (1980). The Story of Reading. Countryside Books. p. 88. ISBN 0-905392-07-8.
- Phillips, Daphne (1980). The Story of Reading. Countryside Books. pp. 168–9. ISBN 0-905392-07-8.
- Phillips, Daphne (1980). The Story of Reading. Countryside Books. p. 132. ISBN 0-905392-07-8.
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