Affectionately known as St Nics, the church occupies a prominent position in the Market Place and its spire is a well known feature of the Durham skyline along with the castle and cathedral
There has been a church here since at least the C10th although the present building dates from the C19th. It is very much an evangelical church. George Carey, who later became Archbishop of Canterbury, was vicar here from 1975-82. His vision was for an open church at the heart of the city serving the needs of all and providing a natural link between the Christian Church and the outside world. He led a project to remove the pews and Victorian features, opening up the church for more flexible forms of worship and community activities.
The last time I had visited the church was in the 1960s when it was a traditional Church of England interior and a very traditional church service. I knew it was had become an Evangelical Church with the Gateway World Shop selling a range of Fair Trade products and a coffee lounge, but nothing had prepared me for the the changes inside.
The inside does come almost as a complete shock and is very much the result of Carey’s ideas. The first impression is of light and space. The Victorian arcades are still there and wood beamed ceiling, but the rest is all modern. Pews have been replaced by pink padded sets and an area has been set aside for the tables and chairs of the coffee lounge.
The church has been completely turned round with a simple table for an altar on the south wall. Behind, in an old doorway is the Fish Window, an ancient symbol for Christ.
The stained glass window near the shop was designed by Leonard Evetts of the Fine Arts department at Durham University in 1961 and was a leading craftsman in stained glass, using medieval techniques to achive great depth of colour. It is one of the few things to survive the Carey changes.
At the east end is the Quiet Chapel, reserved for private payer and separated from the rest of the church by a modern wood and glass screen.
This is completely different to the other churches in Durham but is full on a Sunday and is obviously meeting an important need. The Gateway World Shop is open Monday to Saturday from 10-5. The Coffee Lounge is open Monday- Saturday from 10-12.
Unfortunately the A1(M) had been closed by a crash and I was a lot later in arriving than planned. The cafe lounge was shut, but the kind lady in the shop let me slip into the church to take photographs.
There is no parking by the church but there are plenty of car parks close by. The post code is DH1 3NJ and the grid reference is NZ 274426.
There is more information and pictures “here.”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/churches/england/north/co_durham/durham_nic/index.html