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Church hosts soldiers battling floods

As communities in Lancashire and Cumbria continue to battle the floods, one parish church has opened its doors to a group of soldiers who are helping to stem the flow ...

As communities in Lancashire and Cumbria continue to battle the floods that have beset them for several days, one parish church has opened its doors to a group of soldiers who are helping to stem the flow.

St Michael’s on Wyre Church near Garstang is at the centre of a community directly affected by the current flooding.

The church is hosting a platoon of soldiers from The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment who are sleeping when they can between callouts and are making themselves comfortable as best they can, including making good use of the church’s hassocks!

Their presence boosted the usual attendance at mid-week prayers – although some of the soldiers were, understandably, still sleeping!

The Vicar of St Michael’s, and Area Dean of Garstang Deanery, Rev Andrew Wilkinson, takes up the story …

He said: "The soldiers were expecting to sleep in the back of the minibus but the church invited them to bed down for the night and use our newly-created kitchen and our toilet facilities. The Commanding Officer was delighted.

“I visited to give them a few cases of soft drinks and some chocolate and found that villagers had been showing similar acts of kindness before me.

“The soldiers have been active as required on flood relief duty all day and night, working with the Environment Agency. They have been making emergency repairs to four breaches in the flood embankments of the River Brock that caused the flooding and helping with the evacuation of numerous dwellings.

“Our electrician and Churchwarden worked all day earlier this week to restore power to the church central heating boiler – which kept them warmer than they might otherwise have been on a cold December night!

“Then, at our mid-week service, we had a church full of soldiers! Some of them were sleeping on a collection of prayer hassocks for a makeshift bed.

“We are all praying their work will prove successful and the clay banks they have built prove strong.”

St Michael’s Church Facebook page is providing regular updates on the latest news for the local area. The community is pulling together with neighbours rallying round to offer accommodation and help evacuated families; alongside other offers of support from local businesses.

Bishops of the Diocese of Blackburn, of which St Michael’s on Wyre is a part, have visited various communities affected by the flooding and have spoken this week about their ongoing concern. They also thanked army and emergency services’ representatives and volunteers (many from the faith communities) for their ongoing efforts.

Rt Rev Julian Henderson, Bishop of Blackburn; Rt Rev Geoff Pearson, Bishop of Lancaster and Rt Rev Philip North, Bishop of Burnley said: "These are tough times for numerous communities across the Diocese who are continue to struggle with the effects of flooding, following unprecedented weather conditions across North West England.

"Our continued thoughts and prayers are with all those who have been driven from their homes, those who face the discomfort of having no power supplies and all whose lives have been affected.

“We can only continue to admire the army and emergency services for their work during this major incident and it is important that people in the worst affected areas continue to co-operate with them.

"Numerous volunteers, many from the faith communities, are also doing what they can to alleviate the ongoing situation.

"However we continue to remain concerned especially for elderly and vulnerable people and those struggling to find the help they need. We hope that people can go on pulling together in this time of crisis and will continue to do all we can to offer support.”

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