Stokesley’s St Peter and St Paul’s Church could almost serve as an architectural timeline for the town itself.
Parts of the building date from the medieval era, while other elements were added in more recent centuries, with developments extending towards almost memorable history and the current era, too.
The church has stained glass installed in the last century and woodwork created by North Yorkshire’s legendary “Mouseman” carpenter, Robert Thompson, with a big screen bringing it firmly into the 21st century.
That last development is an important one. Not because it changed the fabric of the building, it could be installed without making changes, but because of the outlook it represents.
The Rev Ben Gunter has been at Stokesley for the past two years and, after facing the challenges of Covid-19 restrictions, has been working hard to ensure the church maintains a seamless connection with the wider community.
Hence the importance of the big screen, which allowed the church to televise the funeral of the Queen with an opportunity for residents to gather together to mark the occasion, when they may otherwise have remained in isolation at home.
That reflects the church’s wider approach, which ranges from organising well-attended Remembrance Day services, Christmas carol events in conjunction with other churches and more.
Firefighters who are members of the congregation turned up with their fire truck at a recent churchyard clean-up to engage with children who were taking part, helping to cement the connections between church and community.
The Rev Gunter said: “We are trying to bring people together, to enjoy each other’s company and to be a proper community. We want to encourage community and to be at the middle of it, I think that is what churches should be.”
That includes using the church for school events such as concerts, which help to create an affinity between the church and wider community.
“We do a lot with children, and that is building up,” he said.
There is also a commitment to help others, with church members also supporting those less fortunate in society and the church has links to a Middlesbrough food bank, an area where there are more people in need of support, in addition to sending shoebox parcels for distribution to overseas countries where many children are living in poverty.
“People in Stokesley want to show generosity, it is only right that we should help out our neighbours,” the Rev Gunter said.