£70k bid to bring back church to former glory

Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk MP John Lamont has backed an appeal by Richard and Margaret Pedersen to help restore St Aidan's Church, Morebattle.
Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk MP John Lamont has backed an appeal by Richard and Margaret Pedersen to help restore St Aidan's Church, Morebattle.

An appeal has been launched for help to restore a 19th century church in the village of Morebattle.

St Aidan’s Church, located on the 62-mile Saint Cuthbert’s Pilgrimage Trail which links Melrose and Northumberland’s Holy Island, has been closed for 55 years, and has been used as a lorry depot since.

Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk MP John Lamont has backed an appeal by Richard and Margaret Pedersen to help restore St Aidan's Church, Morebattle.

Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk MP John Lamont has backed an appeal by Richard and Margaret Pedersen to help restore St Aidan's Church, Morebattle.

Richard Pedersen, 74, and his 56-year-old reverend wife Margaret now hope raise £70,000 to turn it back into a worshipping chapel complete with a cafe and a craft centre for community use.

The couple met in Australia where Danish-born Richard lived for 40 years and to where Margaret emigrated after growing up at the manse of St Aidan’s Church.

Back in 2009, an eight-week holiday led Richard, a retired pastor of Australia’s Uniting Church, to fall in love with the Borders countryside. One year later, they used their savings to buy the former church for £165,000, despite a national wave of church closures at the time.

The building was constructed in 1866 for the congregation of the United Sessional Church of Scotland but closed after a merger with the nearby Morebattle Parish Church.

The father of two has been doing most of the work himself since 2012 when builders estimated a cost of £500,000 to complete the job.

Now the couple are seeking any willing tradesmen to come forward and offer help to complete the project.

Despite being established as a community interest company there are limited funding opportunities available due to the church being privately owned.

Rev Margaret Pedersen, who was ordained in the Scottish Episcopal Church in September, told the Southern: “Our heart’s desire is to restore this beautiful old church building to its former glory and purpose.

“Thomas Pilkington built this church for the community to use and we intend for it to be returned to the community in a way that will benefit as many people as possible.

“St Cuthbert was a Celtic saint whose love for the locals and the travellers meant that he became guest-master at Ripon Priory. In his memory we hope to serve both the local community and those who are visiting the area.

“We are situated right on the St Cuthbert’s Way Walk which gives us a unique opportunity to offer hospitality to the walkers, and to be available to them with prayer and encouragement for their journey.”

The couple’s appeal has been backed by Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk MP John Lamont.

He told the Southern: “I was delighted to pay a visit to St Aidan’s in Morebattle and I was amazed with the work which Richard and Margaret have carried out.

“Once it’s fully restored, this will be a fantastic facility which has the potential to bring in lots of visitors and prove popular with walkers on the St Cuthbert’s Way.

“However, in order to get it up and running, Richard and Margaret need some practical help. It would be great for any local tradespeople who want to see St Aidan’s restored to get involved.”

To make a donation or get in touch visit www.gofundme.com/StCuthbert-s-Coffee-Stop