There is a considerable fundraising effort underway to raise £15,000 to ensure the future of St Oswald’s Guiseley and St Paul’s Esholt. The events of the 2020/21 lockowns have taken their toll on income and the Parish cannot pay its share to The Diocese of Leeds for the second year running. The Diocese itself is also in debt to the tune of £2-3 million.
If the Parish cannot pay its share then there will have to be cost cutting by the Diocese in the underpaying Parishes. Do they close churches? Do they ask the priest to go half time? Do they ask lay ministers to cover instead of the priest? Do they amalgamate parishes, thus reducing the number of priests? All of these are possible, as is the closure of St Oswald’s and St Paul’s.
St Oswald’s has been a cultural centre of this community since before the Norman Conquest (the earliest visible parts of the current church dates from the 12th century). It is there as an anchor and a sanctuary for all at any time – a place of spiritual gravity and mindfulness. Within its walls resides the traces of the hopes and sadness of generation upon generation of local families whose names are still found on school registers, along with the many newcomers who have come to make Guiseley their home. The Brontes were married there full of joy and hope, the grieving teachers and children of Guiseley National School paid for a small beautiful stained classed window to uplift the sadness of World War One.
Reaching back further the church has been the setting for conflict between catholic and protestant following King Henry’s great cultural change. The tower with its battlements was built for the purpose of defence and protection from marauding Scots who rampaged in the area in the early 14th century. The picture of the nuns wending their way uphill through the woods by Guiseley Beck from Esholt Nunnery to the Chantry is a serene one. And, of course, the 9th century Anglo Saxon crosses found in the church walls are part of the evidence of the early establishment of Christianity in an area that was once part of the Forest of Elmet whose British Christian clergy fled the hostile sword wielded by the Anglo Saxon warriors from Northumbria in the 7th century.
And which of us has not been to the Church for those important life events, a Christening, a Wedding or to say goodbye to a loved one. If there is no Church to mark these ‘ages of man’, we are the poorer for it. And what about Christmas, Easter, and Harvest Festival – or even the ancient Clipping Ceremony that is still practiced? Can you envisage a year without the church marking these events? The building is also a setting for community events from the much needed Youth Club, to historic displays and concerts where the acoustics are first class. Choirmaster Martin Baker especially has established a strong musical programme and repertoire whilst Father David Pickett has been full of new ideas and innovative in the way the Church supports local needs.
Are we, the local community going to let the events and decisions of 2020 cull our ancient cultural heritage, and remove those who are there to provide help and support during life and at times of need?
Please take time to read more from Father David Pickett on the St Oswald’s Just Giving Page here.