Celebrating 200 years at the centre of Sowerby Bridge

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On Sunday 20th March 2022 Rev Canon Angela Dick and church members welcomed the Archbishop of York, the Most Reverend & Right Honourable Stephen Cottrell, to Christ Church Sowerby Bridge.  They were joined by the newly appointed Archdeacon of Halifax, The Venerable Bill Braviner in only his third week in the role, and representatives from churches in the “Halifax and Calder Valley” deanery. Also attending were representatives from community groups, and the head teachers and two pupils from the primary schools who as part of the curriculum regularly visit our church. Each of these schools Christ Church Juniors, Tuel Lane Infants and Bolton Brow Academy has a history dating back to the late 19th century when the town’s population boomed in the Industrial Revolution. 

The first mention of our current building is in the diary of Ann Lister, and the actual opening date of the new church was under a special licence on 24th May 1821. It is ironic that the original consecration by the then Archbishop of York, was delayed until 1824 as he was so busy across what was a huge diocese. COVID restrictions have delayed this anniversary re-dedication too: this time by only 10 months. 

Archbishop Stephen reminded everyone that the building plays a spiritual and physical presence in the town, as do we. He said this poses a contradiction. The stone walls on Wharf Street are not the church: the church is in fact its people. We collectively as “the church” should be living out what may seem an invisible faith, with hands and hearts seven days a week in the course of daily life. However, “Matter matters!” and in the physical presence of things like bread and wine; stone and bells; our building makes a visible statement that God’s people are here on the main street for the whole community.  

Canon Angela commented “It is a very special day for us. We welcome Archbishop Stephen as an old friend who knows our church from his days as the ‘Diocesan Missioner’ of the then Diocese of Wakefield, some twenty plus years ago. We’re also excited that people from across the Deanery could greet our new Archdeacon Bill, and give him a warm Calderdale welcome.” 

Also pictured are the Church Wardens, Peter Henry and Dave Gill, who played a key part in the event. On a daily basis they support the vicar and share the responsibility of leading the administration of the PCC. In particular, they care for and maintain the Grade II listed church, its contents, and the churchyard or grounds, supported by a team of willing volunteers. In practice Dave collaborates with Calderdale’s Bereavement Services and Green Team to maintain the graveyard so it is a calm and pleasant place to sit, or to research family history. Peter has been heavily involved in recent years in applying for permission to undertake major repairs. In 2019 we introduced a new lighting scheme with emergency and LED lighting and in 2021, a “live-streaming” system with digital hearing loop that meant our service could be watched live from home during self isolation.  

Peter adds “I’d like to thank the many individuals, businesses and grant giving bodies, which have generously supported us over the years: particularly the Community Foundation for Calderdale.  Our building may be 200 years old but we have recently made big improvements in the fabric, facilities and events we can offer. We’re now equipped to stage concerts, exhibitions and lower key events. One such is our weekly Digital Café for those wanting to get to grips with a Smartphone or improve their skills learning how to use the NHS app, or try on-line shopping”.

After a delayed start our anniversary celebrations will continue until the end of the year with a much looked forward to visit of our Diocesan Bishop Rt. Revd. Nick Baines on May 15th 2022, a Flower festival on the Platinum Jubilee weekend, and other fundraising events to maintain and fund further improvements.  For more information visit the church website at www.christchurchsb.org.uk 


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