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An appeal for funds to replace vital heating at a Lancashire church – led from the front by a marathon running vicar – has been blessed with huge generosity from the congregation and the local community; bursting through a £30k finishing line with total funds raised now nearly £39k.

Their amazing collective fundraising efforts have also been praised by the Bishop of Blackburn, Rt Rev Philip North.

Like many Victorian churches in this country, St Thomas’ in Garstang is facing many challenges including deterioration of the fabric of the building.

Parish Priest, Rev Michael Hutchinson, his PCC and the church family had a particular concern: the state of the heating system.

Driven by an old boiler and with old radiators that, after 50 years’ service, were hardly throwing out any heat at all the PCC identified replacement of radiators as a key target.

Rev Michael said: “Churches run 100% based on the goodness of the community. Recently, our heating system – with an old boiler and old radiators more than 50 years old - has struggled to keep up; especially during the cold winter months.

“Last winter, some people had no choice but to stay away from church due to the freezing temperatures inside the building. The elderly in particular found it difficult to bear the cold.  

“So we got together as a church family and worked out that replacement radiators throughout the church would cost us £30,000 to install.

Rev Michael added: “It was a huge target, but we set about raising it with a great deal of faith and confidence that our prayers would be answered.”

The first appeal was for £1,000 a time to sponsor a single radiator. Money started to be pledged to the project, with fundraising events like an antiques roadshow, a parish quiz, a choral concert and a ceilidh all adding to the pot.

But the decision of Rev Michael to run a marathon to raise sponsorship was the catalyst for a huge boost to the coffers, including two single donations of £10,000 and £3,000 from generous hearted members of the church family.

The run itself raised around £8,000 towards the overall total.

Following an arduous 17 week training programme, Rev Michael ran between churches in his Deanery area between his morning and afternoon services one Sunday in late October. He made it to every church – including other denominations - and touched the door and prayed at each one.

Rev Michael continues: “We have also been well supported by Garstang businesses. Firms like Skiddle and London Hearts; pubs like the Tithe Barn, the spirit of generosity in this remarkable town is alive and well.”

The current total raised is £38,779 and work on replacing all the radiators in church is now well underway.

Rev Michael added: “Garstang is the best place I have ever lived. We are blessed with so many things: a great community; fantastic events and, of course, the finest local parish church in the UK!”

“Our church is a focal point for the wider community. We are people who want to build on our strong sense of community and our fundraising efforts to make our building warm and welcoming during colder times will make a huge difference to what we can offer our community all year round.”

Bishop Philip was enthusiastic with his praise: “Michael is doing an amazing job in Garstang, not just raising money to get this church work done but the way he is doing it: engaging so many people and capturing so many imaginations in the process.

“I’m delighted for him and for everyone in the congregation in Garstang that they reached and have now exceeded the target they set for the work to be done. It will make a huge difference to the community.”

Additional words: Mark Ashley 

Captions below for the pictures attached:
Taken by Michael Coleran on the day of the Rev Hutchinson’s marathon effort. They show Michael with his family, and being cheered on and supported by members of the congregation as he made his way around the area on his 26 mile epic.

  • Charlie Hutchinson, Michael Hutchinson, Emma Hutchinson, Elise Hutchinson as Rev Michael sets off on his run
  • Local children, Lucy Bennett, Faith Barton, Michael Hutchinson, Jerri Barton and Fox Laverty wish Rev Michael all the best before his run
  • The moment of truth as Michael sets off on his marathon run!
  • Rev Michael, second right, with local supporters Joanna Coleran, Jonathan Hewitt, Jacob Bennett, Finn Lamoury, Rachel Bennett during the marathon run
  • Rev Michael gets a hug from wife Elise after completing his marathon
  • The celebratory cake at the end of the run for Rev Michael baked by church member, Mrs Grace Bull