Festival boosts at-risk Haverhill church

Scarecrow and Harvest Festival at The Old Independent Church in Haverhill.
Pic- Richard Marsham
Scarecrow and Harvest Festival at The Old Independent Church in Haverhill. Pic- Richard Marsham

Members of a 350-year-old Haverhill church faced with financial difficulties have been heartened by the response to a two day festival that was staged in part to raise awareness of its situation.

The Old Independent United Reformed Church (URC) has been in Hamlet Road since 1884, although the denomination has a history in Haverhill dating back to 1662.

Neve Hopkins, 14 and her sister, Jessie Hopkins, 8, look at some of the Harvest produce at the Old Independent Church Harvest and Scarecrow Festival.  Picture by Richard Marsham.

Neve Hopkins, 14 and her sister, Jessie Hopkins, 8, look at some of the Harvest produce at the Old Independent Church Harvest and Scarecrow Festival. Picture by Richard Marsham.

That history has come under threat as the church, which also has a hall, is unable to cover its running costs.

Last Friday and Saturday the church staged a Harvest and Scarecrow Festival and Open Weekend to raise funds and attract in more visitors to spread the word about its situation and showcase its facilities, including the hall which is available for hire.

One of the church members said: “It was just to raise awareness and say ‘yes, we are here, this is our church and come in and meet us and come and see the church’ and to give the community something to get involved in. That was the idea behind it.

“We’ve been really thrilled with the response from people.

“We’ve had so many people come in and had so many conversations with people it was really lovely.

“The situation is that our finances are low and we do need to raise money if we want to stay there because if we don’t raise some money and have some support we have to make a decision as to whether we can stay there. We have not had to make that decision yet.”

Two years ago the church had a planning application approved to sell the hall and convert it into flats, and divide the main building into separate community and worship areas, but those plans are now on hold.

The church also held a Harvest Supper on the Saturday of the festival and had its Harvest Family Service on Sunday morning.

Prizes were awarded for the best scarecrows entered into the festival by pre-schools and primary schools.

The pre-school category was won by Little Raindrops and the primary school section by St Felix Primary. The weekend raised £850.

The church is holding another fund-raising event in the shape of a craft fair from 10am to 4pm on Saturday, October 14.

Tables cost £8 each and anyone interested can contact the church on 01440 702778 or send a message via its Facebook page (search for Old Independent Church, Haverhill.

From Sunday, October 8, all services will move into the church hall for the winter.