Lancashire bishop embarks on county-wide trek to help Blackpool church community centre

A Lancashire bishop is putting his best foot forward in a county-wide hike to raise funds for the founding of a church-run community centre in the heart of Mereside.

Monday, 14th June 2021, 3:49 pm
Updated Monday, 14th June 2021, 3:50 pm
Bishop Philip preparing to set out on his marathon walk, with Rev. Linda Tomkinson from Mereside Church and Rev. Fiona Jenkins of St Bartholomew’s in Chipping
Bishop Philip preparing to set out on his marathon walk, with Rev. Linda Tomkinson from Mereside Church and Rev. Fiona Jenkins of St Bartholomew’s in Chipping

The Bishop of Burnley, right reverend Philip North, will lace up his walking boots on Friday and trek 53km from St Bartholomew’s Church in Chipping in the Forest of Bowland to the Freedom Church in Mereside on Friday,

His 'Chip In For Mereside' journey will see him travel through Longridge, Grimsargh, Goosnargh, Broughton, Woodplumpton, Treales, Kirkham, Wesham, Wrea Green and Weeton.

Money raised will go towards the refurbishment of the former St Wilfrid’s Parish Hall on Langdale Road, enabling it to be re-opened as ‘The Freedom Centre’, a community centre for the people of Mereside that can also be used as a place of worship for the Freedom Church congregation.

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Bishop Philip preparing to set out on his marathon walk, with Rev. Linda Tomkinson from Mereside Church and Rev. Fiona Jenkins of St Bartholomew’s in Chipping

Freedom Church reverend Linda Tomkinson said: “We want to open the Freedom Centre to make it a place to offer hope, support, friendship and much more. Our community here on Mereside has faced a steady withdrawal of services for too long now. We have been meeting as a church for four years without our own building and we have seen lives transformed in that time. We believe that having the Freedom Centre open will enable us to reach many more people from Mereside and beyond.

"The fact that Bishop Philip is offering up his time, his energy and his support is just so uplifting and inspirational for us. He has encouraged us every step of the way so far on our church’s journey and here he is demonstrating his belief that estates are important to today’s church. We are very grateful for all the support we receive from so many different areas because it is so encouraging in the face of such a massive task.”

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Bishop Philip said: "Freedom Church, on one of the most deprived estates in the country, cheers my heart with the outstanding service it offers to the community and in the confidence with which it proclaims the Gospel.

“Their big problem is that they have no building. They meet in a small community centre which they have now outgrown. This enormously limits what Freedom Church is able to put on midweek, while the church as a whole will never feel established or permanent until it has its own place to meet.

“Linda and Pete Tomkinson, who run Freedom Church, have a plan which is to reclaim the old Church Hall and improve and modernise... However, it is incredibly difficult to raise funds for Christian ministry on estates and, despite bringing huge energy to the task, they still have some way to go. So, I have decided to do my bit.This will be more than a fundraiser. It will be a way to demonstrate how parishes in our Diocese feel a responsibility for each other and are all part of the same family.”

It is estimated around £150,000 is needed to refurbish the old St Wilfred's church hall. It is hoped the bishop's walk will raise £10,000 towards this - he has already raised more than £6,000.

The online fundraiser can be found at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/chipintomereside2021