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Community rallies to restore church building

Some congregations faced with the challenge of raising £120,000 to save their church might have given up before they even started. Not St Helen’s in Dry Sandford!

They assembled a project team from their 20-strong congregation and got to work on their first-ever capital project. The campaign began to raise funds to complete necessary restoration works following threat of a wall collapse in 2018 which eventually closed the church in 2019. Five years later, the church was reborn, fittingly, on Easter Sunday.

Churchwarden Marisa Goodenough explained: “We had a very sharp learning curve. None of us had experience with restoration work or an old building. We were quite new at fundraising. We are a very small congregation, a loyal group of 20 people. We are in a small village of 200-300 people. 

“It was a lot, but we knew the churchyard and the church was very important to the people of the village and surrounding it. We have two schools around us. It has importance, it has family history, it has a long history of inviting people in and we thought it was worth figuring out how we were going to re-open this church.” 

Phase one of the project was to repair the wall damage, insert two tie beams and replace failing interior stonework on two walls. Marisa says the PCC looked at the skills they had within them, people like a fundraiser who could put the case for support, someone who understands finances, an organiser who can bring people together before inspiring specialists who can donate their skills like architects and a professional business analyst to get involved.

She added: “We needed to convince the community this could work, that we could do this.”

They set about looking at their online giving and encouraging their parishioners to consider donating regularly to give them a predictable income and proof of sustainability which funders looked for when considering grant applications. The local primary school, where Sunday services were held while the church was temporarily closed, supported the campaign with children growing seeds for an annual plant sale. Other fundraising events were a dog show, online auction, moto cross events, a jumble sale, sponsored walk across Hadrian’s Wall, and grant applications which also included a successful bid for £20,000 from the Oxfordshire Historic Churches Trust. 

The team also leaned into the expertise available within the diocese DAC department as well as information on which grants to apply for and how to go about it. 

Marisa added: “Work with your deanery too! Our deanery treasurer helped give us time to adjust paying a newly increased parish share by increments. We also received great input from the Area Dean, the Revd Canon Helen Kendrick, who provided realistic feedback."

Added to the challenges the congregation faced, they were without a vicar for the first three years of the appeal until retired priest the Revd Stephen Coe stepped in – a true answer to prayer!

Now the congregation are moving on to phase two of the project, raising a further £300,000 to £400,000 to replace the roof and insert more tie beams. As well as a thanksgiving service to celebrate all of those who contributed to the success of phase one.

Marisa concluded: “It really was God’s work!”

Find out more about the work of the church buildings team.

Page last updated: Wednesday 8th May 2024 9:10 PM
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