Intrepid Thornbury vicar to abseil down St Mary's Church tower for charity

BAKE sales are enough for some, but for others of the thick-skinned variety, a fundraiser has to be a real test of courage and endurance.

And in Thornbury vicar Dr Rev Jan van der Lely’s case it means being hurled, quite literally, out of her comfort zone.

Despite being terrified of heights, the intrepid priest will stare danger in the face as she abseils 130ft down St Mary’s Church tower on Saturday, March 16 to boost the church’s reordering fund.

Dr van der Lely shared her fundraising philosophy with the Gazette: "If you are being sponsored for it, it needs to be a challenge. "I have been up the tower once but I was nervous going up the steps. At the top it took me a few minutes to get to the edge. It’s really going to cost me a lot in courage. It’s going against the grain to go over the top."

The vicar is hoping to raise £5,000 of the £30,000 needed for the reordering of the church.

As part of the renovation, a section of pews will be removed to create a welcome area. The refurbishment will also allow the church easier access to its baptismal font and enhance the children's corner.

As she hangs off a rope 130ft above ground, the vicar will have to remind herself that the whole abseil business was her idea in the first place.

"We were talking at the Parochial Church Council about fundraising and I heard myself say ‘I will abseil down the tower if you sponsor me’," the 57-year-old added.

"It’s one of these moments when you think why did I say that?"

The deal was sealed the next day as her church warden declared he had found someone to help carry out the deed, JCG Expeditions owner and church family member Jon Gupta.

"I’ve come into this reordering project and I’ve not made a contribution to it so it’s my contribution to move that project on which I’ve inherited from John and David," Dr van der Lely said. "It is to show my commitment to the church and the people."

Despite her fear of heights, she has already abseiled once while teaching in Switzerland, but this time around will be much more taxing.

"I’ve abseiled before but not off something this big. It was half or less than half the height. Doing it off a mountainside is not the same. This will be completely vertical.

"I hope that the whole town will be out there. If I think everybody is watching I will think I can’t chicken out now."

To make a donation visit www.justgiving.com/stmarysthornbury

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