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Friday, 31 October 2014

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Bishop thanks Cumbrian criminals who restored graveyard

Criminals who restored the graveyard of a church while carrying out community service have been thanked by Cumbria’s most senior clergyman.

Bishop visit photo
From left, the mayoress and mayor of Carlisle Olive and Ray Bloxham, the Rt Rev James Newcome, the Rev Russell Tague and Gary Copley, payback supervisor

The Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Rev James Newcome, blessed the work at Arthuret Parish Church, just outside Longtown.

A special service was held there on Saturday, which was attended by about 60 people, including many of those who had carried out the work.

The church was built in 1609 – during the reign of King James I – and has one of the largest churchyards in the Carlisle diocese.

It had fallen into a poor state but was restored over a period of several months last year.

The tasks they completed included levelling out some of the graves, extending pathways and making parts of the yard more suitable for the disabled.

Mr Newcome thanked the community payback workers for all that they had done.

“I think it is very impressive and particularly good that so much of the work has been done by the community service people,” he said.

“There has been a mutual benefit.

“It has been marvellous for the church and good for them as well.”

He added: “It is not just for the congregation. It is very much a community area. I think the work that has been done is a kind of expression of that.”

These views were echoed by the Rev Russell Tague and James Bell, the rector of the Esk parishes and the rector’s warden respectively.

Mr Tague said: “The payback workers can see, after all the hard work that has been done, that this is a beacon for the community. There is a place here for them, not just in death but in life.”

Dr Bell, meanwhile was keen to stress that many members of the community had also been involved in the project and that mainly local materials had also been used.

“I would like to thank everybody for doing the work they did,” he said.

Dr Bell also said many of the people who attended the service were people who did not normally go to church.

He encouraged other churches which need maintenance work carried out to consider using community payback workers.

“We had some trepidation at the beginning but over the time they have been here they have been entirely respectful of the church. We even had people bringing them cakes,” he said.

Lynn Halfpenny, community probation manager for the Cumbria Probation Trust, said: “This is a fantastic example of the community work,” she said.

“It has been a really special relationship with the community and has broken down a lot of barriers.”

Since doing the work, many of the criminals have asked to have children baptised in church or to be married there.

Several of the people on probation told The Cumberland News about their experiences of working there.

One man, who was serving a drugs sentence, said: “I feel like I have achieved something, I might start going to my local church.”

Another man, who also committed a drugs crime, added: “It has been for the community so you feel better, it is not just for yourself.”

Another drugs offender added: “It’s nice to have been invited to the service.”

One woman, serving a drink-drive sentence, said: “It has been good, I have made a lot of friends.”

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