Willian church restoration fund campaign continues

All Saints' Willian's Emma McKenzie and Amanda Ferris with Caroline Selley from Heckford Norton with £1,000 cheque

Emma McKenzie and Rev Amanda Ferris with Caroline Selley from Heckford Norton, who presented All Saints' Willian with £1,000 to go towards the church's restoration fund - Credit: Maya Derrick

A rural village church is appealing for support for their restoration fund, which would bring basic amenities to their intimate and dedicated congregation.

All Saints' Willian, which lies just south of Letchworth, hopes to raise £400,000 to restore their Grade-II building, which in parts dates back to the 12th century.

With lockdown halting the church's usual annual fundraising activities, Emma McKenzie, a member of the Parochial Church Council and of Church of All Saints', thought about how they could keep donations trickling in safely, while maintaining connections with the church and engaging the immediate community.

All Saints' Church, Willian

All Saints' Church, Willian - Credit: Maya Derrick

Last year, sales of a 2021 calendar and Christmas cards printed and paid for by Co-op Funeral Care in Hitchin and Letchworth amassed a "wonderful" £1,150 for the church, topping up the restoration fund which currently stands at around £160,000.

Yesterday, October 20, the church was given an additional £1,000 by Heckford Norton of Letchworth in contribution to their restoration fund.

Emma explained that the annual Willian Village Fair, which has been cancelled for the last two years due to the pandemic, is usually a great way to raise vital funds.

"We would have ongoing fundraising events, because we've had plans in progress for many, many years. We were trying to think of a fundraising opportunity that we could do quite safely."

Most Read

Sponsored by Shires Funeral Directors and Heckford Norton Solicitors, the calendar allowed the restoration fund to maintain momentum when coronavirus prevented the church from coming together.

"What we need is running water, we need a toilet, and we need kitchen facilities," Emma added, explaining what the money raised will go towards.

Willian's All Saints' church is Grade-II listed, and requires £400,000 of restoration work to be carried out

Willian's All Saints' church is Grade-II listed, and requires £400,000 of restoration work to be carried out - Credit: Maya Derrick

Associate vicar Rev. Amanda Ferris said that she hopes to "spread the word out that we are a wonderful church and we're a church in the community, for the community".

All Saints' latest initiative selling commemorative tea towels - using a beautifully painted piece by Holly-Anne Rolfe of Garden City Brewery, which was commissioned by Hilary Kemp at Letchworth Festival in 2019 - is all part of their "huge project", which Amanda said will allow them to use the "church to its full ability, and be here for the community."

Holly-Anne Rolfe of Garden City Brewery painted the picture used for All Saints' Willian's fundraising tea towel

Holly-Anne Rolfe of Garden City Brewery painted the picture used for All Saints' Willian's fundraising tea towel - Credit: Supplied by Emma McKenzie

Reassuring that All Saints' won't be turned into a church hall, she maintained that the place of worship will remain a "sanctuary, where people can just come and be", joking that if they can go to the loo and have a drink that would be an added bonus.

"We really have nothing, and I know lots of other churches don't, but we really would like to be more able to let people come and see it."

She added: "I would love people who share our faith, of different faiths or have no faith, to come.

"We've had quite a traumatic time in the last couple of years, and I think most people need a bit of healing, a bit of restoration, building themselves up... I would love this to be the place where they can just come, not be judged. To just come and be."

The church also needs WiFi, so members of the congregation still shielding or unable to attend in-person services can experience worship in real time, instead of waiting for footage to be uploaded to the website and Facebook page.

The Church of All Saints in Willian has been at the centre of the village, south of Letchworth, since the 12th century

The Church of All Saints in Willian has been at the centre of the village, south of Letchworth, since the 12th century - Credit: Maya Derrick

"In the Bible, it says 'there is a time for everything, and for everything, there is a time', and I just feel All Saints' have been planning and getting this off the ground for so long, I would just love for us to do this wonderful thing," Amanda added.

"I do believe it's God's vision, it's not mine or All Saints; He just wants this to be that place."

Caroline Selley, a partner at Heckford Norton, said on presenting All Saints' with her company's monetary contribution: "I am delighted to donate £1,000 to All Saints' for their restoration fund.

"I was able to speak to other partners, and we made a decision to donate to the church. Our office is very close to the parish here, and I have clients that live in the area. It's nice to be able to support the community that I work in."

Planning for an open day, so villagers and members of the wider Willian community can see plans for the restoration work, is under way.

To donate to the All Saints' Church, Willian Restoration Fund, visit the church, St Paul's in Pixmore Way, Letchworth or contact Emma via williancalendar@gmail.com.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter