Wednesday, October 28

Project Brighton: The Brighton Unitarian Church is a hub of activity all year round. Marion Bance explain more…

- January 22, 2018

Brighton-Unitarian-Church-001[1]-Tony-Mould-picture

Many people see our building in New Road, with its giant columns and large red doors, and wonder what such a place could stand for and what its services might be like. So what does happen behind the red doors? We have services every Sunday at 11am. We are an open-minded community of spiritual seekers so our services differ from one week to the next. There is usually music, stillness, and meditation or prayer but no set format. There might be candle-lighting and quiet reflection one week and a traditional sermon with hymns the next. 

Over the years we have played a part in many people’s lives, not just the Sunday services, but all the ceremonies that mark the passage through life – weddings, child-naming and funerals. Our weddings provide couples with a unique opportunity to create a ceremony that reflects their beliefs and attitudes. Our celebrants work with couples to design a service that honours their love for each other and their hopes for the future. Wedding ceremonies can include the familiar elements of a church wedding; for example the exchange of vows and rings. However, music and readings can be drawn from both traditional and modern sources.

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Brighton Unitarian Church is, undoubtedly, a special place and its members are committed to looking after it for future generations. The elegant, Grade II listed building, was completed in 1820 on land bought from the Prince Regent, and Unitarians have been meeting here ever since. The architect, Amon Henry Wilds, designed much of Regency Brighton, and the Church is an important building within New Road’s streetscape and Brighton’s architectural heritage. The iconic portico at the front of the building (the columns and steps) is a well-known Brighton landmark but need urgent repairs. The building has been placed on the ‘At Risk Register’ by Historic England. The Church has applied for a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and other grant-giving bodies to fund the repair work and it is hoped that construction work will start in April 2018.

The building has been placed on the ‘At Risk Register’ by Historic England

To support the application for funding we have put together a lively communications programme, to help us raise awareness of the building, its heritage, and place in the community. These are some of the events we plan to stage in the Spring 2018:

• Lectures from respected historians:
Derek McAuley – ‘Unitarian Women Who Made a Difference’, 6pm, 16 March.

Dr Geoffrey Mead – ‘History of Brighton Unitarian and the Cultural District of Brighton’, 2pm, 7 April.

Dr Sue Berry – ‘Amon and Amon Henry Wilds – architects and builders of places of worship and other buildings in Brighton’, 2pm, 21 April.

• A photographic exhibition featuring images of the life of the building, inside and out.

• A soundscape documenting events and ceremonies that occur within the Church and provide a historical archive of memories.

• A site-specific drama running over two nights, 2 and 3 March.

Fundraising activities have been ongoing for some time now, with a weekly highlight being the Friday lunchtime concerts. The concerts are diverse, mostly classical, but also jazz and folk. The performers are very talented and, most importantly, enjoy what they do; they engage with the audience and always try to make their concerts a special event for everyone. It is a great way to spend a Friday lunchtime – among friendly people, enjoying lovely music. We serve coffee/tea from 12 noon with the aim of turning our lunchtime concerts into a regular social engagements for lots of local people. The concert is 12.30 – 1.15pm. Tickets £3.50 on the door.

On other days of the week the church and its hall are busy hosting local community and charity groups, choirs, craft fairs, musical and theatre productions and, more recently, providing recording opportunities for up-and-coming artists.

If you are interested in finding out more about Brighton Unitarian as a sacred space, a community centre and music/arts venue please go to our website www.buc@brightonunitarian.org.uk or call 01273 696022.


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