A village church has appointed its first official pastor for 50 years.
The man who has taken up the part-time post, 53-year-old Andy Lund, describes the move as “incredibly exciting”, not only for him but for everyone at the independently run Chipping Congregational Church.
He says: “Everyone is very enthusiastic, not just about having a pastor. It is a sign of a church wanting to do new things, to reach out to people and develop the spiritual life of the church and the members.
“People here are really hungry for more of God, and one of the things I find most refreshing is that we have lots of young people involved in the life of the church.
“There is also fantastic support and encouragement from the older members of the church.”
While still retaining many of its traditional features, the 175-year-old church building, which nestles at the side of Garstang Road on Chipping’s boundary, has also recently been extended and modernised.
There is a purpose-built kitchen with hatch and toilets, including facilities for the disabled. In the main body of the church modern seating replaces the pews; a more modern worship area complements that of the old pulpit with a large wooden cross and lectern below; new windows have been fitted; and a new partition can be used as and when required.
Andy says the alterations make the church more flexible and practical, one example of this being its ability to hold monthly community lunches which are attracting between 40-50 people.
There is much to look forward to both for the church and the father of two, who says he was inspired by members of the Chipping Congregational Church 30 years ago.
He was brought up in a Christian household in Bentham and went to work as an industrial chemist at Angus Fire Armour from the age of 17. Andy recalls a group from Chipping Congregational Church visiting his church in Bentham.
So taken was he by their enthusiasm for their faith, the then 24-year-old decided to attend Chipping, too, where he discovered it was not just the younger members who were going to inspire him, but the older ones such as preacher Eric Bainbridge and his wife, Lucy, who have both encouraged him over the years.
“The church here is incredibly welcoming, friendly, supportive and encouraging,” says Andy,.
During his “Chipping years” he not only moved to Longridge so he could be nearer the village church, but also experienced a calling and decided to follow his faith to Bible school in Derbyshire.
This was followed by working at a Methodist church in Vauxhall, London, prior to moving back north to Lancaster where he embarked on a three year religious studies degree course, later changing to politics and international relations.
He then went to work with the Audit Commission, training as an auditor and qualifying as an accountant, a job which took him to Northampton, Brighton and, finally, London again, where he met his wife, Keeley.
Despite Keeley never having lived outside a city before, the couple decided to move back north and, although it was not their original intention, ended up in Chipping.
“It just felt right. I had kept in contact with members of Chipping Congregational Church over the years and I felt it was God leading us back to Chipping,” says Andy.
Over the years Andy says the village church has grown. Each Sunday morning an average of 55 people attend and 75 per cent of whom are under 60. “A lot of our congregation are from the surrounding area, such as Bleasdale, and the farming community,” he says.
The church had been talking about appointing a pastor for a number of years. Last year Andy, who is one of the deacons, was asked if he would be interested in the role and he started in January.
“I strongly feel this is the place where God has called me and my family to be. It feels like home spiritually and felt like coming home,” he adds.