A CONGREGATION is celebrating a welcome early Christmas gift as their fundraising appeal leaps ahead.

The team at St Mary’s parish church in Bridport has been fundraising for a year to raise the £121,000 needed to repair the leaking roof and carry out work internally to fix the damage caused by water getting in.

Barry Gibbs, of the roof appeal working group, said around £20,000 is still needed before work can start, but thanks to the generosity and hard work of parishioners, and the entire town backing the appeal, it’s hoped repairs can begin in April.

Fundraisers said the appeal has ‘leapt ahead’ by £13,700 in the weeks before Christmas. 

Estate agents Parkers presented £548 from its Christmas Prize Draw to the appeal and £1,500 was raised from the New Elizabethan Singers Come & Sing the Messiah. There was also £250 from the Carnival Committee. The pre-Christmas total includes £2,800 from charity grants, £1,250 from the church’s Christmas Bazaar, £7,000 from some generous personal donations, £370 from an “in memoriam” collection, with various other amounts added from the efforts of individuals in the congregation and from the Appeal’s tree at the United Church’s Christmas Tree Festival.

Team Vicar Pete Stone said: “This is answering our prayers to start the external work in the spring. Support from the town and the congregation has been and continues to be magnificent.” 

But the fundraisers aren’t resting on their laurels. A new season of jazz and coffee mornings are set to start in the spring, one Saturday morning a month. Mr Gibbs said 2017’s jazz and coffee events raised around £300 per time – a total of around £2,000 throughout the year. The working group will also look to apply for grants, although fundraising will still need to continue to reach the target amount.

He added: “It’s been quite remarkable. Inevitably with fundraising there are periods when nothing happens and you begin to despair, and then all of a sudden you get these gestures of generosity. It’s given us a lot of encouragement.”

The church is a key part of the community, for both those who are religious and those who aren’t, said Mr Gibbs.

“It’s a Grade I listed building and you have to replace like for like. We really have had tremendous support from the whole town. It’s a significant building and a lot of non-religious events happen there, such as concerts, and the food bank.”

He also praised the congregation.

“They have really pulled together and shown extraordinary generosity. Our prayers have been answered.”