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An east/west trek across Lancashire by the Bishop of Burnley, Rt Rev Philip North, to raise money towards the reopening of a redundant church hall as a community hub in one of the most income deprived parishes in the country, has smashed its £10k target. 

More than £14k has been gathered in so far … made up of donations plus gift aid on Just Giving and generous contributions from people on route.  

The Bishop started early on Friday at St Bartholomew’s Church, Chipping in the Forest of Bowland and walked 58km to the Freedom Church on the Mereside Estate in Blackpool. 

The walk – nicknamed ‘Chip-in to Mereside’ – was raising funds towards the refurbishment of the ex-St Wilfrid’s Parish Hall on Langdale Road in Blackpool. This will enable it to be re-opened as ‘The Freedom Centre’, serving the residents of Mereside Estate through practical service, as well as being a reinvigorated venue for the congregation of Freedom Church to worship in. 

  • The proceeds from Bishop Philip’s mammoth walk – including the additional donations – will help to complete work on new toilet facilities for the Centre. You can still ‘chip in’ to help on Just Giving here.  
  • Videos and live tweets from the walk were posted on The Church of England in Lancashire Twitter feed (@cofelancs) all day … and can still be viewed by clicking here. Please follow our feed for future updates on the work of the Diocese. 
  • You can also listen to an ‘audio diary’ of the whole trip which featured on BBC Radio Lancashire all morning on Sunday. The diary, also featuring many people from our parishes across Lancashire, was on Sunday morning with Joe Wilson. Listen at the following times: 10m 20s; 49m 50s; 1h 22m 15s; 1h 51m 50s; 3h 20m 15s and 3h 52m 05s. Meanwhile there was a live broadcast during the walk itself on Friday as part of the station’s mid morning programme (listen at 1h 07m 15s). 
  • There has also been widespread coverage of the event across other local media including in the Blackpool Gazette and the Lancashire Telegraph as well as an interview with That's Lancashire TV which is available on their Facebook page

Bishop Philip’s long day began with early morning mass at Chipping St Bartholomew’s and ended with a ‘chippy tea’ celebration on the Fylde Coast, with the food provided courtesy of the local Mereside Chippy! 

The two parishes have built a mutual friendship over time, hence the route chosen, which also saw the Bishop calling in at 10 other churches along the way for prayers. 

The Bishop’s route extended from Chipping to Longridge then Grimsargh, Goosnargh, Broughton, Woodplumpton, Treales, Kirkham, Wesham, Wrea Green and Weeton before reaching Mereside. A full list of the parishes and their vicars can be found below. 

Speaking after completing the walk Bishop Philip, who also has a national role in an estates church context as Chair of the Archbishops’ Estates Evangelism Task Group, said: “As I have travelled across the County today, it’s been a powerful sign to me to see how we are all dependent on each other. 

“In the Bible St Paul says we are all one in Christ. Today I have passed through parishes in all kinds of different areas, serving all kinds of different people, but we are still all one family in Christ … in this case a family supporting the work of Freedom Church. 

“Thanks to each and every person who has given to this fundraiser – you are all fantastic and it will make a huge difference to the ongoing work to create a new top-notch facility. 

“Situated on one of the most deprived estates in the country Freedom Church, run by Rev Linda and Pete Tomkinson, cheers my heart with the outstanding service it offers to the community and in the confidence with which it proclaims the Gospel.” 

Linda Tomkinson echoed the thanks of Bishop Philip when she added: “Our prayer is that the Freedom Centre will be place to offer hope, support, friendship and much more. The centre will sit at the heart of a community which has faced a steady withdrawal of services for too long now; enabling us to reach many more people from Mereside and beyond. 

“Each and every person who has given to this appeal, however large or small their donation, can know for certain they have played a part in bringing the new Centre to vibrant life.

“We thank them all and we particularly thank Bishop Philip for offering his time, his energy and his encouragement every step of the way so far on our church’s journey.” 

Speaking about the walk Rev Fiona Jenkins from St Bartholomew’s, Chipping, added: “Despite, or perhaps because, of our very different contexts, we are building a true partnership in which we can learn and laugh together on our journey of faith. I hope the friendship between our churches will encourage similar partnerships between parishes across Lancashire in our wonderfully diverse Diocese.” 

Donations can still be made via the page and he will have a collection bucket with him on the day. 

The picture of Bishop Philip on the stile preparing to set out on the walk, also featuring Rev Linda Tomkinson from Mereside Church and Rev Fiona Jenkins (in purple jacket) of St Bartholomew’s in Chipping, is by Ronnie Semley for Blackburn Diocese.  

The walk pictures are by Dave Champness for Blackburn Diocese.  

Churches and their vicars the Bishop called at on the route were … 

  • Longridge St Paul vicar: Rev’d Mike Barton 
  • Grimsargh St Michael vicar: Rev’d Neil Salt 
  • Goosnargh St Mary team vicar: Rev’d Stephen Cooper 
  • Broughton St John currently in vacancy 
  • Woodplumpton St Anne currently in vacancy 
  • Treales vicar: Rev’d Christine Morton 
  • Kirkham currently in vacancy 
  • Wesham vicar: Rev’d Anne Beverley 
  • Wrea Green vicar: Rev’d Philip Chew 
  • Weeton St Michael vicar: Rev’d Philip Chew