A new trust has been launched at Petworth to sustain the parish church of St Mary’s, not in its role as a place of religious worship, but as a well-used location for cultural and community events.
The aim of the organisation is to raise funds so it can contribute to the upkeep of the building, and specific projects, as a centre for the community to use.
Friends of St Mary’s has a board of trustees, chaired by Lord Egremont,and including such diverse people as town historian Peter Jerrome, Paul Bibbey, a former chairman of the Royal British Legion in Petworth, Jewish philanthropist Lewis Golden, who lives in the town, and Angela Azis, a member of the Petworth Festival committee.
Lord Egremont and Mr Golden are founder patrons, each donating £5,000 to provide the Friends with a funding start.
Leaflets have been distributed to households in Petworth, explaining the purposes of the trust and inviting people to become a Friend by donating £15 a year.
Michael Till, who was temporarily rector of Petworth following the death of Canon David Pollard, is a trustee and spokesman for the trust. He is also chairman of the Petworth Festival, which uses the church as a venue for a number of its events.
He has described the trust as ‘a local, secular initiative addressed to the interest of the widest community’.
Mr Till told the Observer: “This is something that comes from the town rather than the church. There are things that need doing to enhance the community uses of the building which the Friends would be asked to contribute to.
“It is not to say the vicar and the congregation would not be very grateful for this because it will be a great help with matters of concern and expense. But this will not take anything away from the PCC (the church council) who have the first responsibility.”