As Belper Town Mayor, my enlistment has allowed the opportunity to meet many people and observe events closely in the district. It’s also introduced me to many organisations who contribute almost unnoticed in the locality. After viewing my diary, following the Mayors inauguration in May, I was immediately impressed by the rich diversity of events in our summer calendar.
Starting with the St Georges day parade through the town in April, it became clear that our Church’s hold a really important position within the towns chemistry. The dignity and pageantry of a high church service at Christ Church is a special occasion. A powerful candlelit service accompanied by the pungent smell of incense, it gives even the most agnostic a very spiritual feeling. I discovered an even greater bond with the vicar as we share an appreciation of the art of brewing.
St. Peters Church
St Peters Church, like Christ Church, was colourfully packed on St Georges day with members of our scouts and guides associations. St Peters was also very well attended in the summer as a truly inspiring venue for an incredible wealth of talent which formed the wonderful pageantry of the Belper Music and Arts festival. To have the National Young Musician of the Year alongside our actors, choirs and extremely talented local performers, it left me feeling completely in awe of our talent. Likewise the same could be said for St Peters’ atmospheric performance of ‘14’ the locally and written produced dedication to the Belper’s fallen at the Battle of the Somme. I think we should remember and thank the writers, designers, technicians and performers who seem to have a superhuman ingenuity to offer us this talented experience on a fairly regular basis.
I attended some meetings at our local Baptist church. Invited by a relatively new organisation in the town, ‘Accessible Belper’. At the meetings, although it was not immediately apparent, I became aware that a number of the people present had a physical disability or health condition. What was most striking was the commitment of all present to work towards accessibility in local buildings and venues, but perhaps more importantly to ensure all can enjoy genuine equality and feel comfortable in our society. What struck me was how members of this group, and the church, were prepared to work tirelessly and unselfishly for the benefit of others in the community.
At the Methodist Church, historically visited by the famous preacher John Wesley, the Rainbows group were appealing for new leaders and invited me to see what their organisation did. It is so important that our youth groups continue with such positive role models and the commitment of our many volunteers continues to be invaluable to our community. It also invoked in me, fond memories of the building being used as the venue for the speech days of my former grammar school, Herbert Strutt School.
I was also very pleased to attend a sale of produce and works in the garden of the church in the summer which was a reminder that all of our historic buildings need to raise funds to thrive. Again it was another positive statement of how generous our local people are, and how supportive they are with good causes.
The Unitarian Chapel
One of our most interesting churches is the Unitarian Chapel. On a recent open day, the many visitors witnessed a large collection of intricate handmade quilts. The designs and colours showed great imagination and a wonderful geometric accuracy that left the casual attendees thinking ‘How do they do that?’ A very important local building with a long connection the Strutt family, in fact it is the final resting place of some of our greatest benefactors. The church also contains one of our most interesting pipe organs. It was lovely to be invited to play but to get the instrument started needed the dexterity of one about to solve a rubix cube. We have a wonderful selection of church organs in the area but talking to local musicians, I’ve realised that it can cost a lot of money to maintain these wonderful instruments in full working order.
St Swithun’s is another unique venue with a very welcoming congregation. Although it is a little bit out of the way, it is well worth a visit with its unusual layout and architecture. Of particular interest are the stained glass windows highlighting the involvement of the family of Isaac Hanson and their historic involvement with George Brettle & Company. Within a few seconds of walking through the door, I was warmly greeted by members of their congregation and received a welcome cup of tea and slice of homemade cake and was pleased to view a very interesting selection of local artists’ work.
I have been a member of St Faiths church at Belper Lane end since childhood and continue to be an organist for the church services (in a unique Les Dawsonesque style!). There will be a fund raising event for the MacMillan Cancer Care on Saturday 24th September, another way that our church can be a focus for our charitable benevolence.
Within this article I have not been able to mention all of our wonderful churches but would be delighted to attend any service or event. It’s always a pleasure to meet the dedicated individuals who give so much, sometimes as our unsung ‘Pillars of Society’.
The inaugural article for Nailed has been written about what I consider to be a continuous, positive influence in our local culture. If individuals are Christian, Agnostic or Atheist or simply curious, it’s possible to enjoy an enlightening, entertaining and historic experience by visiting our Churches. Perhaps the deepest impressions received on my visit to these named churches was the warmth, humour, humanity and sincerity of the people.
The individuals I met, left me with a great hope and confidence that our town is a great place to live and work and by pulling together we can make it even better.
By Cllr Gary Spendlove, Mayor of Belper.