Thornbury vicar raises more than £7,000 in charity abseil
A WINGED creature tentatively scaled down St Mary’s church tower in Thornbury on Saturday morning.
The Rev Dr Jan van der Lely, abseiled down the 130ft monument sporting angel wings and raised a staggering £7,275 towards the reordering of the church, surpassing her sponsorship target by more than £2,000.
The priest conquered her innate fear of heights and after a slight hiccup - a temporary panic attack before the big challenge - climbed over the edge and let go as her parishioners spurred her on singing "she will be coming down the tower when she comes".
"Stepping over the top was the hardest thing I’ve done in my life," she said, having safely reached firm ground. "You know you are safe but it doesn’t stop the panic. "I kind of got the hang of it after a few yards. People started singing and that made me smile and made me think they are all supporting me. They all clapped when I stepped over the parapet."
The vicar had told the Gazette a few weeks before the abseil that just walking up the tower steps was a daunting prospect.
Clad in full mountain-climbing gear, the vicar had initially considered tackling the descent in her cassock but instead donned angel wings, received anonymously in the mail, to the surprise of the locals and parishioners gathered to support her.
"This big parcel arrived in the post a few weeks ago," she said. "I opened it and it was a big pair of wings. There was no card, nothing to say where it was from. That’s obviously what they were for. Nobody has admitted to sending them yet."
Donations have been pouring in since the mother-of-two announced she would abseil down the mammoth tower to raise funds for the church’s £30,000 reordering.
As part of the refurbishment a section of pews will be removed to create a welcome area. The overhaul will also allow easier access to the baptismal font.
"I thought £5,000 was a lot to ask and people did not have very long to donate since we set up our Just Giving page just a couple of months ago. "The money has been pouring in and people have been so generous."
Scores of residents followed in her footsteps as they spent the rest of the day scaling down the tower in aid of brain tumour charity Hammer Out.
To make a donation to the church visit www.justgiving.com/janvanderlely
The church is also looking for two interns to help raise funds for the reordering. To apply go on www.thornburycofe.org.uk/Intern%20Scheme.html