Partnership turns churchyard into town jewel
A partnership between members of the church in St Columb Major and its town council has helped turn the churchyard into the jewel in the centre of town.
Bright flowers, new footpaths, new noticeboards, gates and seating has all helped turn the old closed cemetery around the church into a welcoming community space for all.
Work began three years ago to update the space following a meeting between the then new Mayor Paul Wills and the new Rector Revd Canon Ed Pruen.
That meeting has not only led to a renewal of the churchyard but also in the relationship between the town council and Parochial Church Council (PCC). There were also personal renewals with Councillor Paul going on to be baptised by Canon Ed and confirmed by Bishop Tim.
Ed said: “When I first arrived in St Columb Major four years ago, there was a different type of relationship between the PCC and the Town Council. But fast forward and just this month I have been presented with a silver Hurling Ball as a farewell gift. For those outside St Columb, this is a real honour. Hurling is taken very, very seriously here and there are only five presentation hurling balls in existence and by all accounts I am the first non-Cornish person to ever receive one!”
The close relationship is the result of much hard work between the two councils over the last few years.
Ed said: “In 2013, we were in discussions with the Town Council because the responsibility for the old closed churchyard maintenance needed to be reviewed. Understandably they were concerned because it was a significant responsibility. When Paul was elected he and I met and said ‘Let’s work together’.”
‘Working together’ began with Paul deciding he ought to pay a visit to a church service and see what it was all about. Ed said: “It resulted in me baptising him and it was a very poignant experience for both of us.”
And not only did Paul get more involved, but he also brought the town council with him. Within weeks they got busy in the churchyard. The paths were re-laid with new tarmac, then the drainage was improved and new more welcoming gates added.
With the outside looking so much better, the church team were spurred on to sort out large new noticeboards and the town council even contributed towards new pew cushions. They also supported the fundraising for a toilet in the church which has enabled the church to become a better venue for more church and community celebrations and events.
One such event was the World War One Commemoration in 2014. Fifty-seven St Columb men lost their lives in the First World War and to mark the occasion, 57 men from the town took the place of each man lost and walked through the town at night holding candles finishing at the War Memorial beside the church. They were followed by local dignitaries but most unexpectedly, following them were around 1,500 local people who joined in the procession. Ed said: “We think the whole town joined in.”
At 11pm the silence was observed to mark the start of the WW1 conflict. Ed said: “We plan to do it again in 2018 to mark the end of the conflict.”
Since then the church has hosted many Remembrance Services which have been attended by increasing numbers of military from the nearby RAF St Mawgan.
Ed said: “The services have been so successful because the town council and church have this relationship and have worked so well together. This new partnership working has really helped create a sense of pride in the town. People have realised it’s their church and this has led to more collaborative working with the school becoming closer and holding their celebrations and Christingle Services here again. It’s become obvious that the community really do value the church.”
And this has been seen in the numbers in church.
“I was hearing from someone in our Lann Pydar Benefice that the numbers on a Sunday were dwindling but now I can say ‘how do you figure that?’ because we had over 500 in church last week. While there may be 30 in church on the Sunday morning, we had 452 in church for a funeral on Friday and over 110 in church on Saturday for a wedding! It’s a community resource and the occasional offices are what it absolutely exists for, it’s what the church does best.”
Revd Canon Ed Pruen
As for the future, more significant projects are planned between the church team and the town council but it will be with a new Rector at St Columb Major as Ed is leaving for pastures new.
“My wife and I are going to the Winchester Diocese and I will be taking on four parishes there. It’s nearer our family and I am hoping to do some writing. I know I am leaving the church here in good hands with the PCC team and Paul and the Town Council.”