Plenty of support for church appeal

Celebrities, dignitaries and politicians have rallied behind a �250,000 church restoration appeal which a Norfolk Baroness said was sure to succeed.

Stephen Fry, MP Elizabeth Truss and the Rt Rev Graham James, Bishop of Norwich, have all signed up as patrons of the St Peter and St Paul Church, Swaffham, appeal.

It aims to raise enough money to repair and re-glaze seven windows in the medieval building, replace the inefficient and ageing heating system, build a new kitchen and area for young people, and carry out general maintenance work.

At the launch, its president Gillian Shephard, Baroness of Northwold, said the two-year appeal echoed a previous fundraising drive at the church.

She said: 'Twenty-five years ago, that generation of the church congregation and the wider Swaffham community recognised their responsibility to succeeding generations to maintain and enhance our church. Now it's our turn.'

Many former supporters have given the appeal their backing once again including Keith Skipper, Sir Samuel Roberts and Paul Ison, who are all patrons for the second time.

Four committee members have also returned to help steer everyone in the right direction.

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'This is how I know it's going to succeed,' said Baroness Shephard, who has been a member of the congregation in Swaffham for five years, after stepping down as South West Norfolk MP in 2005 and moving to the town. 'This is an ambitious appeal but 25 years ago an enormous amount of money was raised for an equally ambitious appeal which was very successful.'

The Bishop of Norwich sent a message of support which was read out at the appeal launch on Friday. In it he said: 'You can't imagine Swaffham without its glorious parish church.

'So I congratulate you on seeking to conserve such a jewel among the churches of Norfolk and also making it sparkle with God's good news and love for our own generation.'

A number of events have already been planned to raise money for the restoration. They include a Burns Night supper on January 24, An Evening with Keith Skipper on March 25 and an evening with General Sir Richard Dannatt.

Supporters of the appeal will also be able to commemorate loved ones by donating money to buy a diamond of glass in the new windows. Each one will cost �25 and a dedication will be recorded in a book. Panels and whole windows will also be available for a �2,500 or �10,000 donation.

The Rev John Smith, who will retire as vicar of Swaffham after Christmas, said the appeal would ensure the church would 'meet the needs of the next generation'.

To support Swaffham church's Window Restoration and Development Appeal, contact committee members Melvyn Gay on 01760 7232454 or Ralph Clarke on 01760 722941.