(This article was first published in One Family magazine in April 2021)
The new Atrium promises to be an open, welcoming space, visible to the town of Reading.
It is designed to provide a safe, multi-functional social space for people of all ages and stages.
This new building wraps around the west of the church from the South Door right up the two Sackville Street houses next to the Memorial Hall. It is a unified area with no small corridors or out of the way rooms. It will be easy to buy a coffee or a book and to find a spot to enjoy them.
There are three external entrances: one from the south leading from Friar Street into the Coffee Shop area, one from the north leading down to the Centre and then the main doors, which are set opposite the new West Wall doors into the church itself.
You will see that above the doors is a large glass roof well, which will flood the area with light and allow us to view the beautiful stained glass West Window.
The informal seating provides a focal point in the centre of the Atrium. This is flexible space with furniture that is easy to move according to what is needed.
The wooden effect oak floor creates an atmosphere of warmth and contrasts beautifully with the original exposed flint walls. Flanking the internal church doors we have the Coffee Shop, Bookshop and Reception Desk.
The Coffee Shop will serve drinks, soups, light snacks and cakes. The aim is to offer good quality refreshments at reasonable prices.
The different seating areas allow for working space, meeting up with friends, church meetings and evening events such as games evenings. Larger tables are placed near TV displays throughout the space to enable us to host events such as Alpha or the Marriage Course. The counter and adjoining shelving also have space to display other goods like travel mugs, local books of interest, cards and so on.
Please do pray for the appointment of the Coffee Shop manager.
Again, the Bookshop will have a much higher visibility and profile than before. The Bookshop till point will be alongside the reception desk and there will be more book shelf space spread out across the area.
The aim is to carry a wider stock range. We have visited other bookshops and gained inspiration from them. There is a wealth of good quality Christian arts and crafts, stationery and gifts to display alongside books and Bibles.
Please do pray for the appointment of the Bookshop manager.
Adjacent to the Bookshop is an area for small children with appropriate seating, toys and books. There is plenty of seating nearby for parents and carers to keep a close eye!
Another exciting new development will be space for displaying artwork both against the glass wall and on the shelving wrapped around the internal columns. We will be able to showcase and sell creative works from local Christian artists.
The Memorial Hall door and Vestry door can be accessed from the northern end of the Link but of course will be secured and off limits to the public. The other door you can see here is from the church and will allow easy access to the new toilet block just around the corner. There will be more toilets than before with disabled and baby change facilities.
The whole area is designed with the disabled in mind and has ramps where needed. This extends to a platform lift to access the upper floors of Sackville Street offices.
Finally, this area has an enclosed outside space – a little garden oasis with seats for sunny days. There will be a new garden room initially to act as storage until Phase 2 is complete.
Beyond the toilets we come to the two refurbished Sackville Street houses which have been knocked into one. At ground level there will be a permanent dedicated Prayer Room, which again is an exciting new development.
The two upper floors will be given over to office space. Initially this will be used by the staff team while the Centre is being rebuilt.
Once Phase 2 is complete this space will be offered as a working hub for local charities. There will be separate access from Sackville Street as well as the link to the Atrium.
Together, all of this leads to exciting possibilities for new mission opportunities as well as building on what we already do. It will be a transparent and lovely space for our church family to gather as well as to serve and draw in those from our local community.