Duchess of York speaks of ‘humbling’ visit to Burnley church

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The Duchess of York (c) with Fr Alex Frost (r) and a volunteer at St Matthew’s, Burnley.

Sarah, Duchess of York, has paid a visit to a church in Burnley to see firsthand how it is supporting the local community. 

The Duchess, through her Trust, partnered with St Matthew’s Church during the pandemic to provide food parcels to the local community and has continued to provide support for its social outreach projects.

She was welcomed to the church by its vicar, Fr Alex Frost, and the Bishop of Blackburn, Philip North, during a tour of the Lancashire town earlier this week. 

She spent time meeting with volunteers and guests at the church’s lunch club. 

“During the pandemic I called Fr Alex up and said ‘can we help you, what do you need?’ and then we delivered 500 parcels. I also said that one day I would be there [in person] and today is that day. I think that keeping a promise is a major thing,” she said. 

The Duchess heard about the role that churches and church schools play in the town and commended their “incredible cohesiveness”. 

“Everybody together to make a change,” she said.

Bishop North said: “The Duchess being here to highlight all that goes on in our churches and schools and in interfaith work and with our other amazing partnerships we have in this town is just the most wonderful affirmation of and encouragement of that work as we strive for an ever more cohesive town.”

In the ongoing partnership with the church and other community groups in the town, the Sarah Trust has also provided clothes and Christmas presents, and recently organised a Christmas pantomime for over 60 local children. 

Her visit also took in two local Church of England primary schools, Padiham Green Primary and Holy Trinity Primary.

Fr Alex said the Duchess had brought “joy” to the community with her visit and paid tribute to her “kindness” and “generosity” over the years.

The Duchess of York with a volunteer at St Matthew’s Lunch Club.

“We have brilliant volunteers here at St Matthew’s and they give their time multiple days every week for nothing other than the kindness of their hearts and to demonstrate to our community that we can get through the difficult times by being generous and loving to one another,” he said. 

Reflecting on her time in the town, the Duchess said: “Burnley is a wonderful, tight-knit community but like many others it faces challenges including food poverty and deprivation. It was humbling to see the work of St Matthew’s Church in action at the lunch club and I’m determined to continue to do whatever I can to help.

“And what wonderful school communities I encountered at Padiham Green and Holy Trinity Primaries. Staff and pupils could not have been more welcoming and I loved sharing some Christmas presents from my charity Sarah’s Trust. It was also an honour to meet Bishop Philip during my visit and to hear more about the brilliant work the Church is doing in schools and the broader community.”

North added: “When I became diocesan bishop in the summer I made a pledge: to strive to see the Church of England become an ever-stronger voice for justice in our county; especially for the poorest.

“Sadly, there is much social inequality in Burnley, a place which has a special place in my heart as I was previously Bishop of Burnley for many years.

“The work parishes like St Matthew’s under Fr Alex does to help the people they serve is humbling. And our church schools also provide vital support and a quality education that can change young lives.

“I was delighted Sarah, Duchess of York got the chance to see how her generosity is helping the people of this wonderful town and also see how the people of Burnley are working together and helping themselves towards the better future they all deserve.”

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