One of Inishowen’s iconic and historic churches is to be conserved and enhanced with the input of the entire local community.
Christchurch Church of Ireland in Buncrana was erected in 1804 following the division of Fahan parish into Fahan Upper and Fahan Lower in 1794.
The building, with its Gothic Revival character, is a striking and much-loved feature in the town, standing tall along its Main Street as the years and generations have passed.
One of its most striking and significant features is its bell tower or ‘town clock’ which is synonymous with Buncrana.
The nearby church hall, accessible from St Mary’s Road, was erected in 1876 and the graveyard is located between these two buildings. The historian and antiquarian Harry Percival Swan, who donated Swan Park to the people of Buncrana, is buried within the graveyard.
The original church building has been added to over the years, including enlargement in 1816 and extensive refurbishment in 1867.
A new conservation plan is now being developed for the church and surrounding area, with the local community being invited to be part of it.
Plans for the conservation and restoration can be viewed all this week in the church which will be opened each day as part of heritage week and at a musical evening to be held this Friday.
Reverend Judi McGaffin told the ‘Journal’ the plan is in place not just to develop the building for the Church of Ireland congregation, but also for other denominations within the Inishowen community.
She said: “We are aware the Church of Ireland is a smaller minority in Buncrana. We have 140 parishioners between Fahan and Buncrana, all of whom are very enthusiastic and willing. But, our presence can really grow within the community.
“The building and town clock is a central and pivotal part of Buncrana and the church itself is a community space. We are very, very welcoming of people from all denominations and this is something we want to grow and develop into the future.
She added: “Churches aren’t meant to be used just on a Sunday. They’re great places of solace and reflection and should be opened up as much as we can possibly open them. God doesn’t just live in a Church, he lives in everyone who goes into it and those who don’t. We need to open it up to represent that God is everywhere and the church isn’t just for the Church of Ireland community, it’s for the whole community.”
The community consultation is a key part of the plans, which are being presented by diocesan architect and parishioner Caroline Dixon.
A number of areas are in need of repair and Rev. McGaffin told how plans include resurfacing and re-rendering and the installation of a disabled access ramp, among other things.
They are also hoping to refurbish and open up the transept to be used as a community space.
An invitation has been extended to all for the musical evening this Friday, 28th August at 7.30 pm. Entertainment includes the ‘Treblemakers’ - Lauryn Mullholland, Liam and Amy McCay - and Anne Moore, who has been organist in Fahan for more than 50 years. The plans will be available to view on the night and there will be refreshments afterwards in the church hall.
The church is also open all week from 11am - 6pm, as is Fahan Upper between 11am - 2pm on a Sunday.