Village church renovation scheme nears completion

PARISHIONERS are starting to see the light at the end of a £500,000 project to renovate St Thomas’ Church in Delph.

All works on the Victorian built church and church hall should have been finished by the end of July.

But the coronavirus pandemic has pushed back completion until late September/early October with a likely overspend of £20,000.However, the Rev John Rosedale, Saddleworth team vicar, is both patient and pragmatic over the delayed return, while optimistic the wait will be worthwhile.

“Hopefully, the village will see the potential as we see the potential, not just for the Christian community but for the whole of the community,” said Rev Rosedale.

“Besides, the original date (for completion) was a year ago at Easter. But we have had problems of one sort or another.

“The good news is we should get the church back with a new kitchen and new extension by the end of July.

“Work will then start on the church hall, hopefully to come back into use at the end of September or the beginning of October depending on the state of the floor because the church hall floor needs replacing.”

The project is the biggest of its kind at St Thomas’ since the 1960s. “It was starting to look 1960s as well,” added Rev Rosedale.

When worshippers and community groups eventually return, they will discover major improvements.

A new entranceway to the church has been erected, housing a fully accessible toilet and small meeting room.

An additional entrance halfway between the church and hall will provide level access so people in wheelchairs or with pushchairs can move freely between the two buildings without worry of steps.
There is a new kitchen for the hall plus an accessible toilet conversion.

All the pews have been removed and sold where possible to create a new, level, carpeted worship area.

“Our church floor is one of the largest ground floor areas in Saddleworth,” explained the Rev Rosedale.

“If anyone wants to put on an event in keeping with the church building, we will look to host them.

“We have sold as much as we could but you don’t remove all your history; we want to blend the new with some of the old.”

However, the pulpit which had been due to be re-homed at Heights Chapel, was sold together with the pews to help fund building works.

“Pews don’t have their place any more in many churches,” said the Rev Rosedale.

“For one thing we don’t tend to sit still as much; just look how classrooms have changed
“The way we worship is a lot freer than it was. Pews were put into churches mainly by the Victorians and they were Victorian-sized bottoms.

“Bottoms of today are too big for the depth of the pew. That is the reality!

“Unfortunately, due to damp at Heights and on the say so of the Churches’ Conservation Trust the pulpit was sold.”

The last on-site church service at St Thomas’ was held in September 2019 with the church hall used until lockdown started last March.

Now services are held over the internet using the Zoom or Teams meeting platforms.

“A line from one of the kids’ sons is: “I am going to zoom, zoom around the room and praise the lord. So, quite appropriate really,” added the Rev Rosedale.

“And I have had to learn so much. My technical knowledge in social media has escalated in the last few weeks.

“Once all work is completed, we will be holding an open day for everyone to visit and there will be an official opening too.

“The community has really pulled together during lockdown and hopefully the new look church can become even more a focal point of the village.”

• The Church of St Thomas’ Friarmere was constructed in 1768 at Heights. As Delph expanded, a mission church, dedicated to St Hilda, was built adjoining the school room in the centre of the village in 1884.

In 1963, the original St Thomas’ was declared redundant with the mission church subsequently rededicated to St Thomas to become the parish church.

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