Some of you may have noticed that there have been one or two near misses recently, particularly with visiting Clergy, who have either tripped over the middle section of the altar rail kneeler, or who have stood on it, and found it not to be a stable surface to stand on (as we know, it’s not meant to be, anyway).
There is not a simple solution. The kneeler is in 3 sections and the middle section is longer than the opening when the central part of the rail is lifted. Adaptation to make just the central section of the kneeler removable would still result in something that is too heavy for one person to lift and would create difficulties with where to put it, when removed.
The Vestry has considered a number of options and none is straightforward. Having a thinner central section of kneeler would make things look uneven from the rest of the church, would be more difficult for people to kneel down to, and get up from, would make the servers have to bend over more (already a bad enough problem as things are) and would still not solve the problem of the weight, or the storage. Replacing the whole thing with carpet would not provide sufficient cushion for people’s joints, might just create a new trip hazard…and so on.
Nonetheless we have to do something about this. Churches are not subject to quite the same Health & Safety régime as other public buildings; but we must minimise the risks as much as we can. To that end, the Vestry proposes trialling various alternatives over the next few months. The best solution we have come up with so far would be to remove the central section of the kneeler altogether. Those who particularly wish to kneel would use the side sections, where there would still be kneelers; those in the middle would stand. A number of people choose to stand, anyway, but this arrangement would allow for either. It might be a bit untidy to begin with, but no doubt we could adapt. If you encounter this happening in the next few weeks, please remember it’s an experiment only and there will be proper consultation before we make any permanent change. We are already in discussion with the Dean, to ensure that we observe the Church’s rules about alterations. And if you think what’s proposed is a silly idea – do you have a better alternative to suggest? Talk to a Vestry member, or contact the Rector (rector AT stjohnsdumfries DOT org / 01387 254126) or Vestry Secretary (secretary AT stjohnsdumfries DOT org / 07754 596140) if you have suggestions.