On Saturday, 9th September, St Mary and St John’s Church on Cedar Road celebrated the 50th anniversary of it’s dedication and consecration.
The whole community of Camp Hill was invited, whether they were regular attenders at church or had never set foot in one in their lives. Everyone was welcome. The invitation was certainly very popular as on the day the church, and afterwards the church hall, was packed full of people, all keen to celebrate the church coming to Camp Hill all those years ago.
Originally services were held in what is now known as the Church Hall, which was used for both worship and community events. However this was only meant to be a temporary measure, so Father Sneath teamed up with the congregation to raise money to build a dedicated church. Many local people today still remember a member of the church community knocking on their door on a Sunday lunchtime and asking them to ‘buy a brick’ which cost 6d (6 pre decimal pennies.) In this way the money needed was raised and the church eventually built. So as you can see, St Mary and St John’s is literally a community church, built by the community for the community.
Today the church sits at the very apex of Camp Hill, looking out over the old and new areas of the estate and over to Stockingford and Grove Farm. The church can literally be seen on the skyline from many surrounding areas, a monument to what can be achieved by a dedicated vicar and a community acting together.
On the day of the celebration the recently painted and floral church was looking splendid. At 12.00 the church was full of people, including the Mayor and Mayoress of Nuneaton and Bedworth Bill and Sheila Hancox, and MP Marcus Jones, waiting for the start of the mass. The service was a little delayed but began eventually and the congregation duly settled down to worship. Leading the service was the Right Reverend Jonathan Goodhall, Bishop of Ebbsfleet. He gave an interesting thought provoking sermon and even mentioned the Pride in Camp Hill website, reading a section from the Old Campillian’s Lament poem. During the service shafts of sunlight came in through the high windows just under the ceiling, highlighting parts of the church including a beautiful flower arrangement just in front of the small statue of the Virgin Mary.
When the service finished, so began a very important part of the day, a buffet to feed all the hungry guests. The cake table was a very popular attraction with the delicious fare disappearing fast. However the guest writing this article was more interested in the tea hatch, quickly traversing the hall to get a nice cuppa.
During the refreshments break, initiated by the Bishop saying Grace, guests milled around saying hello to old acquaintances and meeting new people. Some took a look at the decorations including the Memories Board and the new stage decoration featuring photographs of a mixture of Camp Hill residents. Father Tom and John Holmes drew the raffle tickets, once they had managed to make themselves heard over the mix of conversations taking place. The prizes included hampers of goods and an impressive £500 cash.
At 3.00pm some guests went back to the church for the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament which was quiet and peaceful after the jollies in the church hall. It was a perfect end to a great day, in which it was heart warming to see how many people still care for the church in these increasingly secular days.