Paul Hutchins reports on the revival of the Ascension, Lower Broughton, desecrated by fire
Life after death is central to our faith as disciples of the Lord. It is our longed-for hope; we believe in Christ – Christ crucified, risen and ascended. The reconstruction of the Church of the Ascension, Lower Broughton, Salford, in the Diocese of Manchester is a living parable of this tenet of our faith.
Back in 2017 the church suffered an unprovoked arson attack. I recall watching the Manchester news that evening in disbelief that I church I knew very well was burning down. I had regularly celebrated mass there and had taken children from that parish to the Walsingham Youth Pilgrimage. To see it burn seemed unreal and sickening.
The next day was a bleak one. The press interviewed the then Priest-in-Charge, Canon David Wyatt. He stoically proclaimed that the life of the church would not end in death but resurrection. Others had urged him that this was the end. Not so for Canon Wyatt or for the people of the Ascension; this was just the beginning. ‘Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again’ seemed to be very much the motto at the time.
Five million pounds later and the Ascension has indeed risen from its ashes. So much so that it was recently rededicated by Bishop Philip North, had its new altars consecrated and had its new Rector instituted, Canon Falak Sher, who has taken on Canon Wyatt’s mantle.
The Ascension is blaze of light and space now, with beautifully crafted furniture and radiating a holiness from the prayer-soaked walls of the church, which has served the people of Lower Broughton for over 160 years. It has many modern features whilst maintaining its classic build.
Canon Sher is prolific in the community, as Lower Broughton itself has undergone a huge transformation in terms of its buildings and population. Canon Sher has responded to that need and serves a very mixed congregation of cultures forming the people of God in that place. Once a month he celebrates mass in Urdu for the Christian Pakistani community as well as embracing people from Eritrea and other parts of Africa.
He is also active in the local primary school, which was built just a few years ago and where he serves on the governing body. An assistant curate, Fr Warren Mitchell, assists Canon Sher in the life of the parish, which acts as a beacon of hope in the local area.
Thanks be to God that this historic building continues to offer worship to God and is still a home for the Catholic faith handed down to us by the Apostles. It is not a museum piece; it is a parish church, and it is serving the people of God. May it long continue to grow and be fruitful in the vineyard.