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Raising The Cross

From the Barwicker No.80
December 2005

. The large stone Cross outside St Philip's Church, Scholes was raised on 1st May 1965. At 10.15 am. St Philip's Day, diocesan church leaders and parishioners led a procession from the Coronation Tree to the site of the new church. Following the ancient custom of first Raising the Cross, the church was then constructed. It was consecrated on 27th November 1966 by the Bishop of Ripon, the Rt. Revd. John Moorman with the assistance of the Rector the Revd. Norman Butcher.

It is significant that this Cross overlooks fields, which witnessed the final defeat of paganism in this region, with the victory of the Northumbrian king Oswy over the mighty pagan warrior Penda, king of Mercia, at Whinmoor on 15th November 655. This short article will examine some aspects of the Christian vision underpinning the new church in Scholes, over a thousand years later.

The old church, which had cost £417.13.4p to build, had served the community well since it was licensed on 9th September 1875, but it was too small for its growing congregation. Its origins are obscure largely due to inadequate record keeping at the time. Colonel Frederick Charles Trench Gascoigne (1814-1905) continued his family's benevolence in the area; he initiated the building by donating the land and building stone. He also funded half the cost of the enlargement in 1902 when the chancel was added; an organ was installed in 1950.

The first moves to build a new church began in 1933 when the newly appointed Rector, the Revd. H. Lovell-Clarke addressed his first Parochial Church Council stating that, 'there may be need to consider the building of a new Church in Scholes in view of the growth of this village and the possibility of its absorption into Leeds.' He echoed growing parish opinion that Scholes needed a new church.

In January 1936, Colonel Gascoigne gave two acres of land east of the old church for the site of the new one. The W.R.C.C. planned to build a road from Stanks to Scholes, which would have provided the church with a road frontage, but it was never built. In March 1936, the Diocesan Church Forward Movement ruled that all money collected in the parish for the Bishop's Centenary Appeal should go towards the building of a new church. In 1938 this fund stood at £800, but the outbreak of war the following year halted all this development. Britain's very existence was at stake.

In the immediate post-war period the priority was to re-construct the nation. Scarce building materials and resources were needed for industry, commerce and housing. It was two decades before the question of a new church in Scholes was re-considered. In 1959 the newly appointed Rector, Norman Butcher helped to resurrect the idea, making it a live issue once more. He was quite clear that he had come to Scholes with the Bishop's blessing, to build a new church and he and his wife Mary were dedicated to that purpose. In 1961 the project was listed as one of the seven churches to be built by the Bishop's Leeds Churches Appeal. It was possible for the village to have a new church, but £40,000 was needed. Where would the money come from?

Financially, the purchase of additional land on the site and the building of the church would cost £33,000, of which a Diocesan Grant would provide £22,000 and the church £5,000, leaving a shortfall of £6,000. Additionally the conversion of the old church into a hall and the provision of a house for an assistant curate would cost another £4,000. The rector needed £10,000 for his total scheme.

This was a great deal of money for the parishioners to provide at a time when Wallace Arnold was advertising a week's fully inclusive holiday on the south coast for £10. Additionally the much neglected parish church needed a great deal of money spending on it. In June 1964, the Barwick Church Committee had assured the Scholes Committee that despite its own very heavy commitments, the fund raising problem was a parish issue. It was a joint effort. The demand for money was endless.

These were stirring times and the parish magazines of the period reflect the energies, determination, ingenuity and sheer desperation of parishioners to raise money. The Direct Giving Scheme, which began in 1959, brought in œ700 annually to the Building Fund, to which the Duchy of Lancaster donated £200. Money raising for the new church began in earnest as the Rector exhorted his parishioners to devote themselves to the cause. He was encouraged by enthusiastic and wholehearted support from the Mothers' Union, the Women's Fellowship and the Choir. The Reverend Hayden Harrison who became curate, worked very hard at fund-raising; he and his wife were popular figures. The whole village supported the building project.

There were special collections, talent schemes, garden fetes, coffee mornings, apple sales, afternoon teas, suppers, cheese and wine sessions, a film evening, whist drives, a Shrovetide Ball, Garden Fete, Harvest Festival, an Autumn Ball, a Halloween Mumming session, Young Wives' carol singing, Christmas Fayre, Caf‚ Continental, Musical Evening, and sales of various kinds. People were glad to give very freely of their time and talents. The traditional genius of English churchgoers for fund raising was very much in evidence. Jam and scones were turned into bricks and mortar, toffee into glass.

In helping to prepare the architect's brief in August 1964, the Rector agonised over the layout of the church as he expressed his philosophy. It should accommodate about 250 people in addition to a choir of about 30. 'The Architect's first concern should be to create an appropriate spatial setting for the Eucharist. The design of the church should begin with the altar, the unchallenged focal point.'

He saw the font as 'second in importance to the altar. There should be a step of descent to the font, in order visually to symbolise the Pauline doctrine that it is a mystical descent into the death of Christ and a corresponding ascent with Him into the Easter life of resurrection.'

The symbolism of the positioning of the Pulpit and Lectern was also emphasised. "A step of elevation should depict the apostolic office of announcing the 'good news' of redemption." In reflecting on other considerations, the church entrance, 'should be prominent and significant of the redemptive mysteries re-enacted within.'

When fund raising flagged, the Rector became increasingly desperate. In August 1966 he was frantic to raise the last £2,000. Interest free loans of £25 or multiples were asked for. Clergy Stalls could be bought for £50, a pew for £50, a seat for £6 and baptistry tiles cost 10 shillings each.

His magazine article ends with a shopping list. A Chalice and Paten cost £75, Candle Snuffer £10, Altar Book Rest £20, Literature Table £60, Hymn Board £20, Wall Safe £6, Alms Dish £15, Consecration Cross £18, external notice board £50, external stone carving £36 etc.

This appeal raised £1300, but was still insufficient. The Church Magazine of November 1966 continues with this constant request for money. Windows cost £200, a Hymn Book Trolley £35, a Consecration Cross £18, Sanctuary carpet £200, Organ £800, Main Doors £80 Door handles £20, Wardens' staves £18 each, etc.

The architect was Peter Hill of Castelow and Partners, Leeds and William Birch of York, was the General Contractor. Writing in December 1966 the Rector proudly describes the church, he refers to the east and west walls being faced inside and out with handmade York brick and the ceiling of steam bent timber ribs in semi-circular forms to create 5 barrel vaults covered in Columbian pine.

Natural materials give colour throughout the church where teak and pews made of African mahogany contrast with the white Sicilian marble of the font, lectern and pulpit, which are 'in theological and liturgical harmony.'

The heavy aluminium bronze altar and processional crosses were designed and made by the sculptor John Mills, in London. Donald Porritt of Menston made the churchwardens' staves and some communion silver and local craftsman Stan Pearson created and contributed the altar table. The Glasgow School of Art made the altar embroidery. The church also received a steady stream of gifts from parishioners at this time; a Lectern Bible and antique silver to be used in the communion service were recorded among many gifts.

Great pomp and circumstance attended the dedication of the church when the packed congregation saw the Bishop make his mark of consecration in white chalk on the wall of the Sanctuary and with his staff, the sign of Alpha and Omega in the sand in front of the altar step. Derek and Betty Hogg later donated the gift of a 'bishop's mark' in nickel silver to cover the original 'mark'. Derek, a local teacher and craftsman designed and created this impressive work of art. Then followed the blessing of the Font, the Altar and the ornaments before the Consecration Eucharist in the fully choral service.

In his sermon, the Bishop said the church must be active and militant, ready to attack all that is evil and false, if it is to - 'proclaim the good news about God to everybody and to build up the Kingdom of God in preparation for the time when Christ will return in glory to claim the Kingdom for his own.' The new church was a 'powerhouse,' a meeting place between God and man where people could go out into the world to do 'His' work.

The interior of the new St Philip's Church - late November 1966.

Services of thanksgiving continued during the following week and eminent local church people ensured the church had a first-class start. Having created a new church with an explosion of parish energy, the immediate task was to ensure it ran as intended; but the church continued to be plagued by a shortage of money.

Some parishioners were critical of the new building, saying it resembled a factory or supermarket, but the budget had been so tight that there was no other choice of design. Additionally both church organs in the parish needed replacing. 'The organ at Scholes cannot last much longer; its replacement will cost in the region of £1000.' (November 1967) The organ at All Saints' was also failing, estimates to re-build it were from £400-£500. 'It is almost unplayable.' (February 1968) Demand for money was remorseless.

But as churches struggled financially throughout the land, siren voices were being raised that all the energy and money being directed into the 'trappings of a by-gone age,' were emphasising 'God's house, rather than God's people.' 'Living stones of men, women and children rather than bricks and mortar should be the priority'. (Elizabeth Peters. February 1968) In Scholes there were yet other financial demands. The old church had to be converted into a parish hall and there was the small matter of financing a curate and his house. The list was never ending.

The Anglican Church needed to look to itself, for the proposed union with the Methodists was on the national agenda yet again; timid agonising years of vacillation, indecision and failure lay ahead.

Building the new church seemed to have exhausted the parish, which was beset by major problems as it came to terms with life in the last half of the twentieth century. There were central weaknesses in the philosophy, organisation and financial management of the Anglican Church and increasing demands from the diocese to make parishes self-financing. The dead hand of historical patronage when making clerical appointments alienated local opinion, adding to parish problems.

All Saints' had to be re-ordered, its neglected building cried out for improvement. It needed major repairs to the roof, a new heating system, re-wiring, a new organ, re- decoration, a toilet and improved movement space to encourage social activities. The financial demands were unrelenting and put enormous pressure on the incumbents and church committees. Church attendances were falling, more and more women were seeking employment and had less time for parish affairs, but often, older people who had taken early retirement, took up the need for volunteers. Younger people had to be attracted to church but congregations were ageing and society was fragmenting in new and bewildering ways. It was the golden age of television, the sexual revolution and the impact of 'the pill' on society. Battle lines were drawn between old and young, authority and laissez-faire, self-control and freedom. The Rector defied his times. 'This is a post Christian world, the Church is facing a missionary situation.' (February 1963) Arguments about the position of women, political correctness and sexual orientation, continue to dog the church today.

The St. Philip's Committee Minutes of the late seventies reflected increasing dissatisfaction with the church and new building. The Annual Church Meeting in 1979 commented on falling attendances, saying that the greatest concern was the decreasing lack of social fellowship in the years immediately before and after the building of the new church. Additionally £6000 had been spent on the 480 square yards for the car park.

A particular characteristic of Christianity is that individuals or small groups of people appear at moments in time, to exert an influence out of all proportion to their numbers. In Scholes, a second wave or group of dynamic, devoted parishioners now appeared and the Rector, Roger Wild led them to the next phase of development, which was the re-ordering of the church in 1997. Amazingly, the new church was re- modelled within thirty years of being built; such is the speed of accelerating change.

The constraints and financial limitations that had led to the building of St Philip's were accepted and understood. But this was a new age, a period when people were increasingly prepared to lead; they wanted their voices heard and their wishes carried out. They were also considerably richer, with more disposable income.

Out went much of the symbolism of the original building, the white Sicilian lectern and pulpit, the marble rails and desire to enhance the mystique of the Chancel, the Altar and the Holy Table. The Sanctuary was re-modelled to make it more accessible and welcoming. Lighting was improved; heavy contract pile carpeted the worship area and side chapel, choir and sanctuary areas.

A new hot water system was installed and heating levels throughout the whole church improved. Six pews were removed and the remaining ones re-orientated towards the Communion table. The church was closed for nearly two months for the work to be undertaken.

The organ console was re-located, and a sound system with induction loop installed. A new lectern was constructed of timber from a removed pew, a new communion rail was built lit by down lighters; heavy Wickham church chairs were also purchased for the choir area.

At a stroke, the church was transformed into a more modern, caring, welcoming and comfortable home. It was a triumph made possible by the vision and energy of parishioners and the generosity of many benefactors like Thelma Garrett who had left £7640 to the church in her will; another £5000 had also to be raised to fund the scheme. Parishioners organised barbecues, car boot sales, dinners, sponsored swims and slims, sale of pens, and golfing afternoons to raise much- needed funds. Alan Smith's bequest of £10,000 was used to transform the old church into an excellent parish hall.

But the building and maintenance difficulties at St Philip's were not over. There have been constant problems with the roof and in certain windy conditions rain penetrates the brickwork of the end parapets and runs down the inside of the cavity wall. Work began in mid-November 1999 at a cost of £28,000 to try to solve the problem, a start was made on the west wall, but the weather was foul and the situation proved more serious than was first realised. Some internal steel work is badly corroded and careless bricklaying in the construction work has created a permanent problem.

The budget was inadequate for the task and some problems still remain, particularly with the east wall. The Quinquennial Report issued in November 2003 lists old and unresolved problems as well as new ones. It will also cost the church many thousands of pounds to implement recent Health and Safety legislation.

In the last half-century there have been five rectors who have led the church into modern times. Norman Butcher, Glynn Wilkinson, Terry Munro, Roger Wild and Brunel James have all brought different gifts and abilities to their vocation, complementing each other remarkably well. The church has grown and prospered under their leadership as each has stamped his authority and personality on the parish. Their collective work has created an impetus and development allowing both churches to evolve naturally as they respond to the challenges set by our modern world. The future looks bright.

The original Scholes vision then, created a church with a definite view of what it wanted to achieve. The tremendous energy, and single-minded resolution of that generation succeeded in its intention. But the passing of time changed that vision into something else, just as current ideologies will also change; they always do. There has never been a time when the Church has been satisfied with what it has achieved. There is always something else; there always will be. But the truth is that a proud modern church with its inscription 'We Would See Jesus,' now overlooks the green fields where Penda's paganism perished thirteen hundred years ago.


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