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A Message from Our Vicar – October 2017

        ‘Working as Christ’s presence within the world’

Revd Lynn Boyle

Revd Lynn Boyle

St. Francis of Assisi — ‘Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.’

When we were faced with the fact that the Chancel of St Paul’s was sliding its merry way, not only down the hill into the graveyard, but also towards the village, it seemed a daunting problem to tackle. We had thought we just needed to do a bit of window restoration to bring the church up to date on repairs!

The first estimates for the underpinning soon made us aware that we were talking in the hundreds of thousands – how on earth were we to find such money? Mick, Eric and I quickly signed up for Diocesan courses on how to bid for funding and we invited people to come and talk to us and to the PCC. It was very evident that it was going to take a lot of work, but also that we didn’t have a choice, this was absolutely necessary to ensure the future of the church.

We were then given a second challenge: to qualify for Heritage Lottery Funding, we had to prove the willingness of the local community to support the church. We also had to prove that we could make the church more of a community asset in the longer term. Church buildings can no longer afford to remain unused for several days every week. If we were to be granted this funding we had to demonstrate that the church, basically was going to be worth it.

Many meetings and discussions followed and a re-ordering plan was added to the restoration to ensure that the church would be fit, not only for continuing worship, but for use by the local and wider community for the years ahead. We also had to prove our own willingness to raise funds and the willingness of the church and parish to support this: another challenge.

But this is exactly how the PCC have viewed it – not as a problem, but as a challenge and an opportunity. We had an opportunity to engage and involve people in this process and to take our church forward in its work and mission. Initially a team of 12 people volunteered to be involved and became the planning group.

The group had to look at not only how to obtain funding through bids, but how to prove the interest of the local community. Our Gift Day in April was one such initiative and it proved very successful, but still did not give us the numbers of parish contributors we needed. We were therefore encouraged when Karl Hancock from Whitebottom Farm offered us a different opportunity.

Karl had already asked me whether I would lead an act of worship at the two Blackthorn Festivals during the summer. The PCC were happy for me to do this – it was a great opportunity for outreach and mission. Now Karl suggested a way in which he was willing to help us raise funds: in return for a donation to the church, each household in the village was offered two tickets for each of the festivals held at the farm over the summer. We accepted Karl’s offer and were delighted that 375 tickets were taken by residents of the village in return for their donations of £4670. Villager after villager came along to the vicarage to collect their wristbands and this gave me an excellent opportunity to explain what we were having to do to ensure the future of their church. The names of those who have contributed will be recorded in a donations book when the work is completed.

What was wonderful about this manner of fund raising was the opportunity it presented to talk to people in the village I have never met, not only when they came for their tickets, but also during the festivals, where I acted as Chaplain; and here came another opportunity.

I had never thought before of being a Festival Chaplain. But as I was leading worship at two of the festivals, it made sense and again the PCC was happy that I take on this role, as was our Archdeacon. Acting as Festival Chaplain was a wonderful experience in outreach and mission. I met and talked to so many wonderful people for a whole variety of reasons. We have new members to our congregation. I have conducted a wedding and wedding blessing, I have a baptism booked, another wedding blessing and a further wedding. I also know that there are a significant number who are re-examining their own faith and church commitment in light of our discussions. I worked on the gate, meaning I was one of the first people many festival goers spoke to. I worked behind the bar, which gave me an instant relationship with many people as I walked around – you don’t see many vicars pulling pints!

The two services I took were well attended and well appreciated and the second was live streamed thanks to Joanne’s technological skills!

The work of restoration and re-ordering now enters the next stage and we are so much closer to achieving our goal as far as the funding is concerned thanks to the people of Compstall and the Hancock family. We give thanks for this.

We now await the results of the final bid for money and for news of our Faculty (Planning) Application from the Diocese.

What seemed a daunting and practically impossible task 18 months ago is now a reality. We have risen to the challenge so far and will continue to do so over the next twelve months. We are one of the smallest parishes in the Diocese and many, which are larger than us have struggled to achieve what we have managed; indeed some churches have not been able to and as a result are having to close.

We work prayerfully and trustfully, putting our faith in God and through Him we are seeing that the necessary has become possible, and the seeming impossible is within our sights.

Thank you to everyone who continues to work so hard to ensure the future of St Paul’s.

The photographs give you just a little insight into what I got up to over the summer at Whitebottom Farm!

God Bless

Lynn

 

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