A PRIEST in his sixties, who has little experience of trekking, sets out tomorrow on a fortnight-long hike through the Himalayas to Everest Base Camp.
The 100-mile round-trip is the Revd Dr Chris Steed’s way of launching a £2.5-million appeal for the transformation of St Winfrid’s, Testwood, Hampshire, into what he believes is a mould-breaking community resource.
Dr Steed, who is the Team Rector of Totton, near Southampton, admits that he has not prepared well for the gruelling climb to the 17,500-foot starting-point for serious climbers’ assault on the tallest mountain in the world. “All my friends are quite concerned that I have not done enough training. But I told them I walked to ASDA the other day. . .”
I recently watched the disaster movie Everest. I thought I could just see what it looked like, up close and personal; but I wish I hadn’t. I thought ‘What the heck have I taken on?’ I am not an experienced mountaineer by a long way, but I am fit enough to keep plodding on, and I have the grit to make it happen.”
Also, four years ago, he took the admittedly less arduous route to the 19,300ft summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.”This is something I have wanted to do for a long time,” he said. “I don’t have the technical skills for the higher bits, but I will get as high as I can.” His aim is to reach Kala Patthar, the 18,514-foot-high point of a ridge 1000ft above base camp, famed for its panoramic view of Everest.
He hopes to raise £5000 towards the transformation of St Winfrid’s, which is Grade II listed. It dates from 1937, and was designed by Nugent Cachemaille-Day, known for some of the most “revolutionary” 20th-century churches.”
The people here are very passionate about outreach,” Dr Steed said, “so what we have come up with is a community project, something that I hope will commend itself to the wider Church as a very interesting model.”
Besides supporting a variety of community services, he thinks that the exceptional acoustics of St Winfrid’s unusual square nave will make an excellent concert, arts, and conference venue. The plan includes a recording studio with apprenticeships in the music industry.”
It’s not just like having a coffee morning or a youth club; this is something on a very different scale,” he said. “We have a well-researched plan, a business model to show investors that their money is not dropping into a big black hole, and architects’ plans are being worked through.”Donations can be given via www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/rectorwalkseverest.