A MAJOR step towards re-opening St John’s Church and its Accrington Pals Memorial Chapel was taken this week when Nigel Rix and a team of architects presented the results of a feasibility study.

The report, shown to a significant number of the congregation after a Sunday service at St Christopher’s High School, examined some of the possible ways of making the building suitable for the 21st century.

The church has been closed since late last autumn after it became unsafe to use.

Our Aspire fund is aiming to raise £50,000 to allow urgent repairs to be carried out that would allow the church to re-open pending the seeking of further funding by groups such as English Heritage.

The team’s brief was to make a building fit for worship, find ways of reducing the costs of running the church and if possible increase the income of the parish.

Appeal co-ordinators Andy Shepherd and Karen Smyth said: "The team has really picked up on the fact that we are a vibrant church with lots going for it. We have a large congregation with a high proportion of younger people and children, which bodes well for the future.

"We have the backing of a great many local people who have rallied round raising funds for the Observer's campaign. The closure of St John’s Church has had a profound effect on many people, so many of whom have been inspired to join us and support the campaign.

"We have had offers of help and support in other ways, from areas such as the probation service and Accrington and Rossendale College.

"Each week we hear of new and innovative ideas that people are coming up with to help us to achieve our goal. The campaign is certainly not tailing off as could have been expected.

"We are certainly not complacent about our situation — we are looking to achieve growth in all aspects of church life.

"This report is not a quick fix document but a guide to the next 10 years or more.

"There is much to be done and we hope to continue to work as a church community, and with the residents of Accrington, to not only bring this church back to its former glory but to further enhance it and make it suitable for future generations."

* The appeal fund now stands at £34,277 with cash coming in this week from the sale of church refreshments, the recent sponsored walk and a £20 donation from Mrs A P Ashton of Buxton Street, Accrington, who, as a seven-year-old, remembers the Pals marching to Accrington railway station on their way to the fateful battlefields of The Somme. She wrote: "I thought it might be of interest to hear from someone who actually recalls this occasion as I feel sure there won’t be too many people still around today who can recall the Pals setting off. I am 98 years old."

* In last week’s list of donations one should have read In memory of Mrs Mary Elizabeth Dearden from M M and J E Blackwell £200. We omitted the name Mary, for which we apologise.