Thursday, 9 April 2009

St John the Evangelist, Chichester

Visiting St John’s church for the first time, you could be forgiven for thinking you were entering a Nonconformist Chapel. But this Anglican church, tucked away in a quiet corner of Chichester, is a rare and perfectly preserved example of an early 19th century evangelical ‘preaching house’. Dating from 1812, it is built in a severe but elegant Classical style.

Unusually, it was privately funded and run by trustees from the evangelical movement of the Church of England - such schisms are not a new phenomenon! The Ministers were largely paid for by the rent from the pews in the galleries, and the rich not only had their own pews but their own entrances too - clearly, not all here were equal in the sight of God...

As well as the severe decor - which offers little to distract the congregation from the proceedings - the dominance of the central pulpit reflects the emphasis on sermons and scripture readings in evangelical worship. The impressive triple-decker pulpit is itself a rare survivor, and completely dominates the altar (or rather the Communion Table) behind. The four painted tablets are also interesting survivors.

Although rather plain, the building is a fascinating example of a religious phenomenon, and a remarkably peaceful place in which to sit for a while. The Church is also used regularly for concerts, especially during the Chichester Festival.

It is now in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust.

St John's Street
, Chichester, West Sussex PO19 1UR

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