Curate taking a leap of faith to help Christian Aid

Oxford Mail: Curate Richard Frith and Christopher Bright, from Christian Aid, on the tower of St Mary Magdalen Church in Oxford. Picture: OX57105 Richard Cave Buy this photo » Curate Richard Frith and Christopher Bright, from Christian Aid, on the tower of St Mary Magdalen Church in Oxford. Picture: OX57105 Richard Cave

VISITORS looking up at Oxford’s dreaming spires will soon see people lowering themselves down a historic landmark.

For the first time, fundraisers will abseil down a historic city centre church tower – St Mary Magdalen Church in Magdalen Street – to raise thousands of pounds for Christian Aid.

Among those taking part on Saturday, March 9,will be the church’s curate, Father Richard Frith – if he can conquer his fear of heights.

The 35-year-old father-of-one from Marston is planning to summon up all his courage to climb the 80 steps to the top of the tower and abseil about 80 feet to the ground below.

He said: “This is certainly the first abseil down this church tower and it could well be the first sponsored abseil down a church tower in Oxford. I have never liked heights and I would not consider doing this for any other charity apart from Christian Aid. We checked with the church architect to make sure the tower would be properly conserved before we agreed that this could go ahead.

“But the focus of this event is not our church tower, it’s Christian Aid and we want to raise awareness of the work they do.

“It’s a historic church and the earliest parts of the building date back to the 12th century.”

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Fr Frith added that the county council and emergency services agreed that the fundraiser could take place.

Christian Aid spokesman Hannah Glasgow said it followed other abseils down churches in the South East, including one in Windsor.

She added: “About 40 people usually take part for each event and they usually raise up to £7,000 each time.

“There won’t be any permanent damage to the church tower, although tiny pieces of weathered stone can fall to the ground when people are abseiling down.”

Christopher Bright, 22, a Christian Aid intern working in the charity’s Oxford office in Wesley Memorial Church in New Inn Hall Street, said: “It’s a daunting prospect going over the top but it will be worth it to raise money for the charity – I’d like to raise at least £200.

“Last year I visited Zimbabwe in southern Africa to see the work that Christian Aid partners are doing in the region – it was incredibly inspiring.”

Oxford Preservation Trust director Debbie Dance said: “This is the first time that I can think of a church in Oxford being used for a charity abseil, but maybe a trend is starting because one is being organised at St George’s Tower at Oxford Castle, although we don’t have a date for it yet.

“I’m sure the church has carried out all the necessary checks to make sure the building is properly protected and I think this will be a good way of getting people to look up and enjoy Oxford’s historic skyline.

“The tower at Mary Magdalen isn’t actually one of the famous dreaming spires because it’s a tower, not a spire, but it’s an important building in the heart of Oxford.”

The tower is not usually open to the public.

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