A Church of England judge has given the go-ahead for the font to be moved to a different spot within the historic St Michael and All Angels’ Church at Edenham and for works to some pews.
Two churchgoers had objected to the plans, but Mark Bishop, Chancellor of the Diocese of Lincoln and a judge in the Church’s Consistory Court, has approved the internal works at the grade 1 listed building.
Parts of the church date back to Anglo Saxon times, the 600s, while the font is early 12th Century.
Canon Andy Hawes, of St Michael and All Angels’, told the Free Press that the church has started work on a £210,000 project to replace roofs on the south aisle, chancel and south porch, and repairs to stonework.
Most of the work is grant-funded although the church itself must raise £30,000.
The font won’t be moved to its new spot until the major works are completed, but it’s hoped everything will be finished by May.
Canon Hawes said the font was originally “right in the centre at the back of the church” and was moved in the 19th Century to a corner of the church, where it’s hidden from view and is impractical for baptisms because people can’t get around it.
The plan is to move it nearer to the centre of the church, near the west end.
Canon Hawes described the font as “a beautiful work of art” and said it’s one of the oldest objects in the church.
While the building work goes on, the font is being protected from damage and is not in use.
Canon Hawes said: “We are using a big ceramic bowl – we put it on a table in the middle of the church.”
He said the wooden pew platform on one side of the church collapsed because it was rotten and, instead of replacing it, the church is laying stone slabs and the pews will become free-standing.
When granting consent for the internal works at the church, the judge said: “I am satisfied that the proposed works are careful and measured and will result in a restoration of the pews to the greatest extent possible.”
Commenting on the font plan, he said: “The place where baptisms have been conducted throughout living memory is obviously going to be a highly significant location for many people; it is a fixed point where this immensely important sacrament of initiation into membership of Christ’s church has been administered.”
He could well understand the church’s view that if the font were moved more centrally, making the baptism more easily seen by the whole congregation, “the baptism could be better focused liturgically into the seamless worship of the whole congregation present”.
He was satisfied the proposed move could be achieved “without causing harm to the special architectural or historic significance of the church”.
St Michael and All Angels’ remains in use while the building works go on.