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The fundraising sparked by the recent sponsored walk for Freedom Church Mereside, in Blackpool by the Bishop of Burnley, Rt Rev Philip North, has been turbo-charged by a generous new donation.  

The original target was £10k and reached £14,775 after the walk. Now, in a wonderfully generous gesture, The Fellowship of St John (FSJ) has announced it will be matching the total, plus £1; taking it to almost £30k! 

  • Listen to Bishop Philip talking about the generous gift on BBC Radio Lancashire this Sunday at 7.10am or later on BBC Sounds here. 

The Fellowship administers the charities historically associated with the Society of St John the Evangelist – often known as the Cowley Fathers. The organisation continues to honour the monks’ work of missionary priesthood in a variety of ways by supporting ministries on the frontline. 

It has been a keen and longstanding sponsor of the work on Mereside which has seen the return and growth of church life, where it could have so easily disappeared.  

The Bishop’s walk took place a couple of weeks ago. He started early at St Bartholomew’s Church, Chipping in the Forest of Bowland walking 58km to the Freedom Church. The two parishes have built a mutual friendship over time, hence the route chosen, which also saw the Bishop calling in at 10 other churches along the way for prayers. 

The walk – nicknamed ‘Chip-in to Mereside’ – was raising funds towards the refurbishment of the ex-St Wilfrid’s Parish Hall on Langdale Road in Blackpool. This will enable it to be re-opened as ‘The Freedom Centre’, serving the residents of Mereside Estate through practical service, as well as being a reinvigorated venue for the congregation of Freedom Church to worship in. 

On hearing the news of the doubling of his fundraising total, Bishop Philip commented: “I am overwhelmed by this generous donation from the Fellowship of St John.  

“This past year has been incredibly tough for estate churches and this grant will make a huge difference to the people of Mereside.  

“I pray this gives also great hope to other estate churches that if you trust in the Lord and just go for it, then anything is possible with God.”  

Fr Charles Card-Reynolds, Director of the Fellowship of St John, commented: “We have been involved with the projects on Mereside for many years. This additional grant demonstrates our support and commitment for ministry on the frontline at this challenging time.”  

Rev Linda Tomkinson, of Freedom Church, Mereside, added: “We were amazed at how much Bishop Philip raised doing his sponsored walk for the Freedom Centre. 

“It was also a great time to see the support from other churches; not just financially but also the encouragement and goodwill towards us which has been wonderful.  

“But then to find out that the amount raised would double - this was incredible. God has indeed poured out blessings upon us through so many people and organisations. The building is going to be used by so many people and we are now a massive step closer to getting it fully functional.”