As chairman of the West Lindsey Churches Festival Committee Paul ‘passionately cares’ about the church

Paul Howitt-Cowan

Paul Howitt-Cowan

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After serving for several years on the West Lindsey Churches Festival Committee, Paul Howitt-Cowan, two years ago he was elected chairman and this year the committee celebrates its 20th year.

Paul says he can vividly recall discovering and exploring his local church, St Laurence’s Church in Corringham.

He said: “That thrill resonates every time I enter the church today as an adult.

“At Corringham there is a huge door with a small one created within that door. The novelty appealed to me. And what I want is for future generations to savour the click of the latch and the yielding door that heralds what surely must be the most unpredictable, compelling and distinctive of English encounters the visit to the parish church.

“It is the only building in any given community that you can visit by right, whereas the rest are in private hands and you enter by invitation.

“And ‘churchitis’ or ‘church crawling’ as it is called, has remained with me all my life.

“‘Curiosity may have killed the cat’ but the very word from the Latin may be interpreted as to ‘care about’ and I passionately care, and I make no apology for my love of our churches and chapels, which pepper our English countryside and towns.

“And it saddens me that we do not seem to look after these priceless gems in our midst.

“Where would our villages be without these oldest surviving houses, which have in many cases been there for centuries.

“However, I also enjoy the simplicity of The Friends Meeting House in Market Street, Gainsborough, which is fairly youthful, built in 1704, when compared with many churches in the area, which have stood there for well over 1,000 years.

“I served for several years on the West Lindsey Churches Festival Committee under its first two chairmen and two years ago, I was elected Chairman.

“This festival began 20 years, which I have the privilege of serving as a councillor, representing the Hemswell ward.

“West Lindsey began and managed the Open Churches festival and it continues to support, as do our printers Systamatic, by providing grant funding and the festival is now coordinated by enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers.

“Our central task is to open up these buildings, which are often closed, for the public to discover and explore their amazing contents.

“You do not have to be religious, or a ‘church goer, we welcome everyone and its one way of demystifying what a church basically is.

“As a church warden, I am challenged with finding £13k per annum to keep the church going.

“The local church, despite the Church of England being asset rich, is poor at the local level, there are a few exceptions. It is a real challenge to articulate it to people.”

The Churches Festival is on May 7, and 8, and May 14, and 15, and for more details vist www.churchesfestival.info.

Paul said: “I feel that I have achieved very little personally.

“I have a strong affinity with the medieval sower, scattering seeds in the fields, hoping that I have, in a small way, ignited a love or nurtured interest in history, which may, like the seed, take root in their lives, whether it be in local history or otherwise.

“I do see my varied roles as that of an ‘enabler’, there to help and I may just know someone who may be called upon to do so, if I cannot.

“In 2007 I received an invitation to a Buckingham Palace Garden Party for the work I do for the community. But that work, as now, depends upon working with a team of people and achievement is never down to one person, it’s a collective effort.

“And I have been fortunate to work alongside some lovely people with true hearts of gold. It is all very humbling.

“My life has enjoyed two principle concerns, people and buildings, they are intertwined, you cannot better that.”