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Facing up to the challenges

Grey haired man in suit smiling

I was struck by a picture that was included with the lovely letter from Nigel Davies that was reproduced by Father Andrew the other day. In that picture it was noted that in January 1931 the parish had a debt of £13,000.

In today’s money that is the best part of £1million. It’s been a good few weeks now since the nation entered lockdown and I’m sure you’re feeling like I am that many aspects of this new way of life are becoming strangely normal, but of course while we all adapt, things are far from normal.

However we have a responsibility to do what we can to help fight the pandemic as we try to get on with living our lives. It’s a strange feeling being unable to attend church to share in the worshipping community of St. Stephens which is such a large and valued part of our lives and we can be left feeling dejected and dispirited.

The closure of the church has been a blow to us all. We are thankful to receive Father Andrew’s pastoral letters coupled with reminders of the scriptures we can read at home and it’s been good to keep in touch with one another by phone or email.

Throughout its history St. Stephens has developed to meet changing needs. Over the years the church and its people have faced many challenges, if we look back to the early days, in 1910 the challenge was to find land and the money to build the first mission church. Then in 1923 the challenge as a growing church was to acquire more land to build the present church.

Unfortunately this was immediately followed by a slump in the Lancashire cotton industry and the recession of the 1930s. The result was that the church was never completed but the debt for the cost took until the 1950s to repay.

Amongst other demands, at Easter 2000 we were challenged to raise £200,000 to restore and finally complete the church by creating a new baptistery and narthex. The Faith in the Future Fund was launched and a quarter of a million pounds was raised in just two years, an incredible achievement.

In 2008 we had to face major expenditure with the complete restoration of our stained glass and clerestory windows when funding of £254,000 was raised over 5 years.

Now we have challenges brought upon us by the Covid-19 virus, something that we could never have imagined would happen. Despite the closure of the church the everyday administration and financial control has to go on as the bills continue to come in, one due shortly is the annual premium for the insurances totaling some £6,600. Yet we have lost approximately 60% of our income as a result of the halls being closed and the lack of fund raising events.

For most of my fifty years at St. Stephens I have been involved in the finances of the church and I know how vital it is that the stewardship giving is maintained on a regular basis and your co-operation is sought in helping to achieve this by using one of the following methods

  1. By Standing Order which is the preferred method. Please just ask for a form

  2. By sending a cheque on a monthly basis (made payable to St. Stephens Church) to Mrs Dorothy Graham our stewardship officer c/o the Vicarage

  3. Charging your giving to your debit or credit card. This can be done by ringing Victoria on 01253 353894 any Thursday between 9.30am and 2.30pm with your credit or debit card details

  4. By making a one-off donation again by using one of these methods.

The church which is loved and admired by many belongs to all of us, we are custodians of a fine building and it is our responsibility to ensure that it continues for future generations, upholding the fine traditions of Catholic service through liturgy and music.

I have mentioned how members of the family of St. Stephens have faced and risen to many challenges supporting the church financially by their subscriptions, donations and often with bequests and I’m confident we will do it again.

I warmly invite you to continue to help take the work and ministry forward during this difficult time. In the meantime my love and best wishes to you all, keep safe and hopefully before long we’ll meet again.


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