The vicar of Sir Tom Finney’s favourite church insists it is worship as usual for a vibrant congregation even though dry rot has forced the building’s closure.
Rev Peter Hamborg has vowed to keep Emmanuel CofE in Preston alive despite fears the Garde II Listed landmark may never host a service again after 145 years at the heart of the community in Brook Street and Plungington.
The church, where the city’s most famous son Sir Tom married his lifelong sweetheart Elsie in 1945, is facing an uncertain future after surveyors condemned it as unsafe. With an estimated repair bill of £500,000, the building is being handed over to the Church Commissioners to find a new owner – and a new use.
But Rev Hamborg, who hosted a public meeting attended by around 80 locals this week, confirmed: “It is sad, but the church is not going to leave this area. We are still going to be here. There is positive potential for the building and what it can be for the community. As for worship, we are doing really well in the community centre next door.”
Emmanuel has been closed to the congregation for more than a year. A proposal to convert half of it into a health centre was dropped because of funding problems.
Adoption charity Caritas Care is close to agreeing a deal to take over the adjacent community centre and Emmanuel churchgoers have been told their services can continue there unaffected.
“I think people understand the situation and largely accept it,” said Rev Hamborg. “We don’t know what the future holds for the building, but it has real potential.”