Embracing vision aims to save iconic Saddleworth church
Reporter: Ken Bennett
Date published: 28 February 2019
St Chad's Church in Uppermill
Rev Canon Sharon Jones initially shocked the community when she announced the grade two listed church could close within 10 years unless locals could raise £1million.
Now, urging villagers to attend a crisis meeting next month, the dynamic Saddleworth Team Rector is drawing on the church’s distinguished, ancient past to promote the vision for its future within the community.
She said: “For 20 years, congregations at St Chads have discussed ways of accentuating the light and space and colour of Saddleworth Church and rediscovering Celtic spirituality.
“We are now ready to begin a new chapter of our life in the community. The building crisis is a focus for doing something radical and creative,” she declared.
“And, as part of the ‘Seeing is Believing’ restoration project, there is also a desire to reorder the internals of the building by replacing the pews with chairs and to reimagine the church for a different world.
“ We are very conscious of the realities of life for many in the community and St Chads wishes to partner with business in the creation of ‘The Pilgrims Rest’ coffee shop in the church building.”
And she promised: “The church would provide a safe space for the lonely and the vulnerable.
“It will to be a place where young people can meet friends and be supported through the challenges of mental health. We would to partner with healthcare professions in providing a listening space.
“And, while retaining its heart as a spiritual home and primarily a place of worship, St Chads dreams of a building fit for exhibitions, concerts and educational visits for children from across Oldham.
“It a resting place for walkers, cyclists, and the many tourists and heritage hunters who come to St Chads for its beauty and history.
“There is a desire to protect and improve graveyard care and access with nature trails, seats and historic mapping.
‘We are looking for partners to invest and work with us, to reconnect Church and community and build a new future together.”
The imposing church receives no statutory funding and is entirely dependent on donations and legacies. A recent application for Heritage Lottery funding was unsuccessful.
An architect report three years ago highlighted major issues with the church roof and windows.
St Chads is at the very heart of the community with a distinguished heritage spanning 800 years. Thousands of families have been linked to it throughout their lives.
“The parish of Uppermill and the wider Saddleworth community now genuinely have an opportunity to work together to find ways for St Chads to be restored for future generations, ” she added.
(Must) Canon Jones invites everyone to join the conversation and attend the Public Consultation on Tuesday, March 26 7.30pm in St Chads Church. Follow the links on: cofeinsaddleworth.org.uk.
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