WHEN parishioners celebrate the 20th anniversary of the re-ordering of St Mary’s Church, Todmorden, with a weekend of events next week, they will look back on what was a mighty task.
In just five years they had raised a mammoth £350,000 to undertake major renovations after the decision to make St Mary’s the town’s parish church, with Christ Church later being sold and converted into private homes.
Reflecting on the effort in September 1992, when the Bishop of Wakefield the Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch was guest at the re-ordering ceremony, the Vicar of Todmorden Canon Peter Calvert - who will be Canon Owen Page’s guest at this year’s celebrations - said it had been a phenomenal effort by the church members who had raised most of the money needed.
The vote as to which church to choose and which to close had been a very close one with parishioners of both having strong attachments, but once the decision had been made to go with St Mary’s, which dates back to the 15th century, their efforts were unstinting.
When the final service was held at the “old” St Mary’s (though of course much remained, not least its distinctive bell tower) on Easter Day 1988, things continued apace.
The renovation work included re-roofing the historic old church, extending it to take in adjoining buildings belonging to the parish, a new peal of bells and new furniture. The aim was that the re-ordered church would very much be one welcoming the community, an aim in which it has been very successful, and the traditional pews were replaced with comfortable chairs.
As the only way it was going to paid for was largely through their own efforts, parishoners rolled up their sleeves and began to raise money often in small amounts at a time but in ingenious ways.
For example, people could buy a single roof slate, or a yard of carpet. Christmas cards were designed, printed up and sold to raise money for the appeal.
They appealed to the public to help them stretch to “a mile of money”. The church team came up with moneyraising schemes which have stood the test of time - to this day, the famous Pound Sale still raises money each year for St Mary’s.
Canon Calvert himself used money given in lieu of a personal gift on the silver jubilee of his ordination to ensure a new altar and font were in place ready for the re-opening in what was his tenth year as the town’s vicar.
The evening of September 7, 1992, was one of celebration and looking back perhaps the most remarkable thing is how much was done so quickly. The fundraising efforts were (and are) also ongoing. For example, by 1995 it was reported that £400,000 had been raised since 1988.
The efforts are worth celebrating, and over the weekend of September 8 and 9, that’s just what will happen.