A CHURCH that was closed for 39 years is now being brought back to life. St James’s, in the city of Liverpool, built in 1775 and the parish church of slave traders, has been handed back by the Churches’ Conservation Trust to the diocese, and the Revd Neil Short is rebuilding its community life.
The splendid church building is in “a pretty bad state”, he tells me, with nothing left inside but ten pews and half an altar rail; there is not even an altar. They are negotiating with English Heritage to put on a new roof later this year; meanwhile, the growing congregation — up to 50 adults and eight children — are meeting in a marquee.
When the roof is on, Mr Short says, they will probably move the marquee into the church. Their regular services are on Sunday afternoons, followed by tea: “We always have plenty of food.”
On Holy Saturday afternoon last year, they held an Easter-egg hunt for the parish, which attracted almost 100 children. Small Fairtrade eggs were scattered all over the graveyard, some obvious, others hidden, and although there was face-painting, an Easter bunny (above), and other delights, it was the egg hunt that really caught the interest. “And it didn’t take a lot of organising,” Mr Short says. “It was all over by 4 p.m.”
And so a church that was dead is coming back to vigorous life. Mr Short and his parish now have to make plans on how to restore the large spaces of the church for worship and for community use.