The church was designed by the late George Pace of York and departs completely from the traditional ideas of church architecture, being square in shape, with the altar situated in one corner, and two banks of pews ranged before it. The altar and nearby credence table are made of Portland stone.
Above the altar is an imposing modern cross, fashioned in wrought iron. Incorporated into the design are several important elements of the Christian faith; the letters INRI, standing for the inscription in Latin placed over the cross – Iesu Nazareni, Rex ludorum, Jesus of Nazareth, king of the Jews; the nails and the crown of thorns are there, as well as the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, alpha and omega, echoing the words of Jesus telling us that he is indeed the Beginning and the End. A later addition was the aumbry, in which the reserved sacrament is kept, which was bought in memory of Harry Herschell. This was made in the same modern style as other decorations.
Behind the altar is the pulpit, reached from steps behind. It is rarely used for sermons, however, most clergy preferring to stand at the glass and iron lectern placed before the altar. Below the pulpit is the sedilia where the vicar and servers sit during the services.
These furnishings are made from limed oak, as are the bench-type pews with integral kneelers fixed to the base of the row in front, and which can be dropped down as required. In a further departure from tradition, the font, instead of being placed just inside the church door as used to be the case, has a prominent place in the centre of the church. When not in use for Baptisms, it is topped by a stainless steel cover containing the shape of a dove, the symbol of the Holy Spirit. Close to the font is the Paschal candle. First lit on Easter day, it is then used on Sundays and at baptisms and funerals until the evening of Pentecost Sunday. From the Paschal candle are lit the individual candles given out during the baptism service.
Music is provided by a Rushworth and Dreaper organ, originally built as a practice instrument for Chester Cathedral, placed opposite the altar on the west side of the nave. Next to this are the choir stalls, on either side of the large plate glass window that adjoins the Lady Chapel Immediately before this stands the table containing the book of Remembrance. This is normally opened each day at the appropriate page. In fact there are two books, one for January/June and one for July/December.
The Lady Chapel is so called as it is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. In here is laid up the standard of the Royal British Legion, until it is brought into church for the Remembrance Day Service in November each year.
The altar and credence table are again made of Portland stone. On the credence table stands an icon of the Virgin Mary with the infant Jesus. It is a copy of the famous icon known as “the Virgin of Vladimir” which was painted in Byzantium in the 12th century by an unknown Greek artist. It was presented to the chapel by Rose Johnson as part of her Silver Wedding anniversary celebrations in 1991. The Lady Chapel is used regularly for the celebration of Holy Communion on Wednesday mornings as well as on Saints’ and other special days. It is also home to a thriving creche of under-fours during our Sunday services.
The church is well lit by long plain glass windows on every side. There are also windows in the roof and several electric ceiling and pendant lights.
Above the main door is found the bell tower, which also serves as a chimney for the central heating boiler. The electrically operated bell was donated to the Church of the Ascension by the people of St. Andrew’s Church, Southport.
On the east side of the building is situated a small annex which contains the Vicar’s vestry where the clergy robe and prepare for services. In here are kept the church vestments and altar linens. There are four liturgical colours for the church’s year – white/gold for days such as Christmas, Easter and Trinity Sunday; blue for Advent and Lent; red for Pentecost and green for “ordinary” services throughout the year. The original white vestments were given by Miss Gorton when the church was built. The spade used by Miss Gorton when she cut the first turf thirty-two years ago is kept here. Next to the vicar’s vestry is the choir vestry, which is now used as a multi-purpose room. Also within this area is a small sacristy and toilet facilities.
The outside brickwork is of a light sand colour, and originally incorporated a Broderick patent copper roof, which mellowed as intended to the characteristic verdigris green. However, from the outset, problems were encountered with water penetration and after several attempts to remedy the situation had failed, it was decided that sadly the roof would have to be completely replaced with a more serviceable material. In 1984 the Roof Appeal was launched. It seemed a daunting task at the time, but by 1988 £50,000 had been raised and the work of stripping and replacing the old copper roof had been completed.
2020 marks 50 years since the consecration of The Church of the Ascension. The concrete construction of the building, typical of this era, now requires some significant maintenance. As we approach the 50th anniversary it is our hope and intention to have this work completed in time for our celebrations. We also want to ensure the building is fit for purpose for the next 50 years and beyond, so that it can continue to serve the people of Woolston.