Aberdare church seeks visibility with £1.2m revamp
A south Wales valleys' church with a landmark spire needs to become "more visible" in the community after a proposed £1.2m revamp, says its warden.
The plans for St Elvan's Church in Aberdare, Rhondda Cynon Taf, include a cafe, a mezzanine floor and a gallery in the bell tower.
The altar would be moved to the church's centre to allow "interactive" services with the congregation.
Warden David Lewis said the church must be more welcoming.
The Grade II*-listed church was built in 1852. Its 180ft (55m) spire is a dominant local landmark.
It is part of the Diocese of Llandaff and the proposals before the diocesan advisory committee include an arts and craft centre inside and an exhibition area.
A mezzanine level above the proposed cafe would be for community use while more room would be created on a galley level in the bell tower.
The church also aims to cater for theatre groups, concerts and town celebrations by removing pews on those occasions.
Its north door would have a glass fronted foyer entrance, possibly housing a tourist information centre.
Church leaders have bid for £500,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund for the improvements which they say aims to make it "fit for the 21st Century".
Mr Lewis said: "Despite our central position on the mound and the huge tower, we have become invisible to the town and that is what we want to overcome by making this building more welcoming.
"We need to be more visible.
"This church, with its 180ft spire, towers above Aberdare and was central to its development. We want to ensure that it is central to the continuing life of this town."
Christina Davies, the wife of Aberdare's vicar, the Reverend Robert Davies, said parishioners backed the plans as a way of rejuvenating worship.
"There is an opportunity to have an altar in the centre of the church and interactive services which will particularly make a difference for the young people," she said.
A report into the future of the Church in Wales last July looked into how the church could adapt to cope with the decline in clergy, falling congregations, a surplus number of churches and a large repair bill for its buildings.
A Church in Wales spokeswoman said: "Local parishes are responsible for running their churches - paying bills, maintaining buildings and raising money for initiatives to enhance their use.
"As many of our churches are listed buildings, grants from Cadw or the Heritage Lottery Fund are sometimes available for improvement schemes that can assure their future."