St Barnabas

Dramatic reordering helps Victorian city church to sing

25 years ago this city-centre Victorian church underwent a substantial reordering which turned the focus of worship through 180° and created a new entrance through the east wall of the chancel. A second reordering, completed in 2014, has now addressed a number of unresolved issues from the first. The building now has a unified floor level where previously there were ramps everywhere, with underfloor heating throughout. There are also much better views into the building, making it more approachable and versatile for a range of church and community activities. 

Bishop Stephen and the congregation of St Barnabas Church Cambridge

Perhaps the most obvious change is the glazing of the original chancel arch, separating the worship space from the ‘square’, so that each can now be used (and heated) separately. The glazing means that the space still unfolds seamlessly as you enter the building, but now gives parents with young children somewhere to withdraw to while still following the service. The screen comprises unframed glazing attached to a timber and steel structure of two crosses; between these, a third cross is visible at the front of the church, adding drama to the space in a playful and theologically resonant way.

Simple things like redecoration, stone cleaning and new lighting have lifted the feel of the interior. While less dramatic, it has been just as important to provide adequate storage and to think carefully and deliberately about which fittings and items of furniture are included.

A new kitchen allows the church to offer better catering facilities, which support the greater flexibility of the building to host a variety of different forms of worship, meetings, conferences etc. A full-immersion baptistry was created in the centre of the nave, which is revealed by taking away a section of removable floor.

A new communion table and lectern, designed and hand crafted by Pete Higginson, were commissioned by the church and fit well with both the Victorian and modern architecture.

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