Activities of the
Otley Council of Christian Churches
later the
Churches Together in Otley


This is an attempt to document the main activities of the churches when working together and indicate the wide range of involvement in town and church matters.

It is supported by a number of documents available - see details

The Cross on the Chevin

The Chevin Cross was built and first erected at Easter in 1969 shortly after the formation of the Otley Council of Christian Churches. It is believed to have been the idea of a well known Methodist local undertaker D.B.Good, an expert on Cromwell, and strong supporter of the Council of Churches. It is reported that, when first erected it was blown down overnight in a gale but was quickly reinstalled with stronger foundations by John Swale, a local builder, and his team of labourers. Since then there have been no further mishaps except those of malicious damage. In 1998,on the night of 13/14th April, the cross was brought to the ground at night time by three youths with a chainsaw. Within 24 hours it had been repaired with steel plates by Tates of Otley and re-erected. It was then erected in this steel plated form at Easter 1999. In the year of New Millennium 1999/2000), it was decided that a new cross that had been built during the year should be erected for the Christmas and New Year period.

From the Churches Newsletter 1999.

The Cross on the Chevin, which has now become a well known and loved Easter symbol of hope for many people will be replaced for the new millennium.

The cross, which is being replaced after 31 years was the brainchild of the Otley Christian Council of Churches which, following on from the work of the Vatican II Council in the 1960’s, intensified the aim of working together as much as possible. The Chevin Cross was one co-operative initiative, which has become a source of comfort and inspiration to many people.

The true meaning of the Cross of Jesus Christ can be found in the hearts and lives of people who follow him but it is hoped that the one on the Chevin will continue as a symbol of redemption for many years to come.

Ron Sweeney.

Written for the Newsletter, at the time, by I.B.Thompson who built the new Cross from timbers obtained from Manchester, out of the buildings damaged by an IRA bomb.

Over the last 30 years Otley folk have taken ownership of the Chevin Cross.
Undoubtedly, it has provoked the thoughts and touched the hearts of residents and visitors alike.
It was a particular privilege to co-ordinate the construction of a replacement for this dearly loved symbol.
Contributions from many people over the last few months, financially and in time and effort, have meant that the new cross will be ready to take its place over the town in time for the new year.
And what better way to begin the new year than within the sight of this wonderful reminder of the real extent of God’s love to us.

for and on behalf of The Carpenter Workshop.

The cross is usually put up each year for two weeks before Easter and two after and is assembled on site from three pieces. It takes in excess of 50 people to do the job safely.

Because of attempts to set fire to the cross the bottom area of the structure is now surrounded with thin steel plate. Unfortunately the new cross is heavier than the old one and more people and greater care are required when putting it up or taking it down.

The Cross is now a well known part of the town’s calendar and of significance to many people whether or not they consider themselves to be church-goers. The only year the cross has not been erected was in 2001 because of the Foot and Mouth disease epidemic and the request by the authorities to reduce the amount of activity and movement on the Chevin. The absence of the cross was noted by the people of the town and acted as a stark reminder of the suffering experienced by animals and farmers in the area and all over the country.

Every Easter Sunday there is a short 7.00 am service on the Chevin with many walking up the hill to the event. Until 2001 there was also a 3.00pm service that was well attended with music provided by either the Salvation Army or the Otley Brass Band. The service in 2000 was run by the Churches in Guiseley.

The original poster that was put on the cross every year in the early days, was found in the archives. In 2008, this was looked at in detail and a new stainless plaque was produced to commemorate 40 years of the Chevin Cross (see appendices).

The Cross in the Market Place

The origins of this cross are unknown but it was in existence in the late 1970’s. It was installed in the middle of the market place in the hole where the Christmas tree was situated and was used as the centrepiece for services run on Palm Sunday. This practice stopped in 1988. Later, from 2001 to 2004, the Easter Sunday Afternoon Service was run in the market place instead of on the Chevin. These Market Place Services were discontinued in2005

In 1988 the cross was broken by a lorry so a new one was made. ( does this tie in with the discontinuation mentioned above)

In the first decade of the 21st century the position of the hole for the Christmas tree and Cross was moved by Leeds Council to the side of the market place beside the Leeds Café. This was probably to reduce interference to the market traders.

A separate booklet has been produced giving detailed documentation of the organisation needed to install both of the crosses.

Christian Aid

Christian Aid was probably initiated in Otley in 1966 as a part of the Otley Council of Christian Churches but sadly the first available minutes are from 1981 although there is a statement of accounts from 1976-7. (see appendices)

The House collection was the mainstay activity of Christian but there is evidence that the Sponsored Walk was being run by Mr Frost of Prince Henry’s School from as early as 1977 but probably earlier. This was run by the school until the early 1980’s and then the organisation was taken over by the Christian Aid Committee. While Prince Henry’s was running the event, participation was very high but then the numbers walking slowly dwindled and the last walk was in 1996 because of reduced interest and Health and Safety issues.

Music has been used a way of raising money and over the years there have been various concerts with the Nidderdale Singers in the 1980’s, School orchestras’ and a sponsored hymn sing in 1982. The Buttercross has been used for bric-a-brac, food and plants and in 1983 at the first Otley carnival there was, at the instigation of Larry Lazarus, a breaking crockery stall.

In 1983, the churches supported a venture run by a teacher Mark Harrison of St. Mary’s, Menston, for Christian Aid. This was for 4 people to walk up the 40 fells over 2000 ft in Old Yorkshire within 4 days. The team of one adult and 3 sixth formers was supported by a back up a number of youngsters during the event in the Yorkshire Dales. Illustrated posters , celebrating the event were printed, and sold for the Charity.

In 1984 there was a special house collection in the town for Africa because of a well published disaster. This was well away from the usual Christian Aid Week but the usuall collection structure was used. It may have been that the Post Office or local free Newspaper delivered the envelopes. The collection was well supported.

A separate booklet has been produced giving detailed documentation of the organisation needed run Christian Aid Week.

The People Next Door –

Good Neighbour Scheme

The People Next Door Campaign ( PND) was a national venture started in the 1960’s. It became one of the initial activities of the Otley Council of Christian Churches and was directed towards helping the people of the town. Activities included a Good Neighbour scheme in which every street of the town had a volunteer who was designated the Good Neighbour for the street and who could be called upon by anyone in the street in case of emergency or need. The system worked well and during some periods of time a central full time volunteer co-ordinator who could be contacted and then forward calls for help.

The work load reach the point were it was appreciated that an answer phone would be useful and the town council was approached for funds in about 1985

The following paragraph is a personal view based on a dim memory and any variation of opinion would be appreciated:

At about this time there was an initiative by the Government and Manpower Services to get youngsters into work and as memory serves two people were employed to help run the Good Neighbour Scheme and they were supplied with an office in the United Reformed Premises. In hindsight it is felt that this was the death knell of the scheme as over the couple of years that Manpower Services were involved, problems occurred because of the conflict between the full time and volunteer people. The workload of the scheme was increase and all the grand ideas came to nothing when Manpower Services pulled out leaving muddled and despondent volunteers.

The second strand of the People Next Door campaign was to run a volunteer "car lift" rota taking families to visit relations in hospital.

The third strand was the publication in 1974 of a directory of useful information about the town. This information was accumulated by church members and typed up into a presentable publication- ". Copies of the "Welcome to Otley booklet were then distributed to new residents to Otley. This publication was brought up to date and retyped and published again in 1976. The work load in the days before the advent of computers and word processors was considerable and was a true labour of Christian love. As an aside such a booklet was produced in 2010 using computers and it is interesting to note that such a document is now obsolete bearing in mind the accessibility of the internet.

In 1990 People Next Door group and the Good Neighbour scheme in Otley wound down and finally closed in 1991. However by then the concept had received national recognition helped by newspapers such as the Daily Mail running banner headlines, with supporting stories, saying OTLEY - A Kind Heart in Every Street and then referring to the Otley initiative. The Guardian and BBC Radio also sent reporters to Otley to report on the scheme. This led to a major Government investment of some £9 million pounds to promote the Good Neighbour Scheme nationally. Some Good Neighbour Schemes still exist under the original name whilst others gradually changed or adapted the name.

The Neighbourhood Watch could be seen as continuation of the original Good Neighbour scheme but sadly with its focus really on crime prevention.

Lifelines for the Elderly.

Another initiative that sprang from the PND campaign was the concept of Lifelines for the Elderly. This was an early form of alerting neighbours to the fact that an elderly person had fallen and needed assistance. The Lifelines were imported in bulk from Hong Kong and distributed free of charge by the Good Neighbours. For a time they aroused much media interest and helped to pave the way for the far more sophisticated electronic devices which elderly and some disabled people can hang around their necks.


From the very beginning Youth have been a major interest and concern of the churches. This interest has always extended beyond the youngsters from within families of the churches to all young people in the town .Every church has been involved when possible in running uniformed organisations and most have over the years run specific Youth Groups and Sunday Schools.

In the constitution, dated 1977, it was stated that there was a Youth and Children's Committee "The sub-committee's aim is to foster pastoral concern and Christian education amongst young people at all levels."

Over the years opportunities have been explored to find ways of getting the youngsters of the various churches to come together and also ways of supporting the general youth work of the town.

Examples include:
Carnival floats
Joint schools concerts
Christian Aid sponsored walks
A gig style concert in the Civic Centre in the 1980’s with a local band.

Parties and events in Wharfedale Meadows which included a highly successful "French Connection" event centred around a youth exchange with Leeds twin city of Lille in France. This was very well supported and aroused much interest.

In the early 2000’s, the organisation "Faith in Schools" from Leeds placed a nearly full time youth worker into Prince Henry’s Grammar School with a remit to support the spiritual development of youngsters within the school and the town generally.

In 2006 the Catholic Church decided to employ a full time Youth Worker – Co-ordinator, to work mainly for the youngsters of the church and its schools but also to relate to the other churches and do whatever is possible for the town’s youth in general. The co-ordinator worked with the Faith in Schools worker from Prince Henry’s and with the help of other enthusiastic leaders and volunteers has organised a number of events in the town directed towards youngsters of all ages.

These include:
Easter Egg Hunts
Otley has Talent
Harvest Town event

In about 2006 a Saturday event day for youngsters and parents was started at Ashfield School and run once a month. This went by the name of KAAZ and attracted considerable interest. In 2012 it was replaced by a new venture on the same premises called GODSPACE.

It must be mentioned that over the years of the existence of the Otley Council of Christian Churches and Churches Together in Otley there has been a continual commitment to do whatever is possible within the resources and manpower available and that there have been ideas and attempts to do more for the youth of the town. Some, although not necessarily under the auspices of the churches, have been successful particularly when outside funds have been used. The idea of running an evening coffee bar on one of the church premises, but not obviously church linked, was considered in 2000. However like so many ideas in this area the problems were too great. The needs and wants of youth vary over the years and many of the same issues recognised by the churches have also been looked at by the Otley Community Council. It is on record throughout the minutes of the CTO and OCCC that the issue of caring for the youth of Otley in the churches was, and is a important consideration. and beyond and there have been any A number of efforts have been made but there seems to be little doubt that long term success can only be achieve through a great commitment and a stable infrastructure.

The situation of what was available in the town of Otley was analysed in 2009, at a time when the local authority was reducing its involvement and a detailed report of what was available at that time can be seen at

Lent Study and Prayer

Sadly because the available records only go back to 1985 it is difficult to establish when Lent house study groups started in the town. It is considered that they probably started in about 1981 on the instigation of the Parish Curate, Rev. Geoff. Percival. By 1985 there was a well established routine with planning helped by the use of a computer. There were a considerable number of groups running during the week at various times of the day. In 1986 the national Lent course "What on Earth is the Church for" invited considerable attention with responses being sent back to the British Council of Churches. It is felt that this lead to the outcomes of the 1989 Swanwick Conference which created a upheaval to the ecumenical church structures in this country. The Churches Together in England and the Churches Together in Britain and Ireland were formed in 1989. Although totally supportive of the new ecumenical moves in the country Otley Council of Christian Churches did not change its name until 2001.

The Lent Study groups continued until 2002 and then as the demand had dwindled, planning in further years ceased. In 2001, the idea of a Friday soup lunch with talk was introduced and this is still running in 2012. Every Friday in Lent we meet at one of the Churches at 12 noon for soup and a roll and then listen to a speaker on a subject based on a theme for that year. Themes have included slavery, refugees hope, global warming and ecology, the King James Bible, and spirituality in old age.

Joint Services

In the early years joint services occurred whenever possible and particularly to mark specific seasonal events. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity usually entailed a joint service but also a complete moving around of the clergy which gave congregations the opportunity of hearing from a different Christian tradition. At Easter there were two services on the Chevin preceded by a Palm Sunday service in the Market place. The Afternoon service on the Chevin usually included music from the Salvation Army band. Holy week is a opportunity for the members of churches to join in worship and this has varied from evening and daytime meditations to study and even a suitable film on Good Friday. In the early years, before Christian Aid Week, the collectors and helpers were invited to a special joint service. Pentecost has been celebrated in a number of ways, usually outside, involving some form of outside procession.

The demand for, and participation in, "joint services" by church congregations varies over time and it can be noted that at one Maundy Thursday Eucharist Service put on by one church there were only 3 people attending and they were all from another church who for theological reason were unable to participate in the Communion or Eucharist. In true churchgoer style one sat near the front, one, who happens to be a minister, sat in the middle of the church and one at the back. There were more officiating than in the body of the church. It was a very windy night.

Individual churches are more successful at serving the needs of their people, developing liturgy to suit and drawing in participation. Having noted that it is vital that efforts are made to offer opportunities for members of churches to come together.

It should be within the ethos of any Churches Together to strive to find opportunities for those from various churches to come together in worship and prayer. In Otley every effort has been made but it can be observed how the number of joint services throughout the years has varied considerably. The general fall in attendance, interpreted as a lowering of demand, is probably a reflection of what is happening within individual churches although it may not be a reflection on the spiritual hunger experienced by many people. How we strive to satisfy this spiritual hunger, through the structure of "church" is open to further discussion.

It should be noted that the Churches always have a central role to play at the November Remembrance Service both on the Sunday Afternoon Service and at the short service at the war memorial at the 11.00th hour on 11th November.

Women’s World Day of Prayer

Women’s World Day of Prayer runs on the first Friday in March. This has never been organised by or under the umbrella of the OCCC or CTO and yet of course those women involved in the planning and running the services where probably very much involved in other Churches Together work. Our respect and thanks is given to Mavis Bowman who sadly died in 2012 and who for years co-ordinated the planning of the day. Like so many other examples of joint worship in the churches the interest seemed to fall away over the years and in 2001 the number of services dropped to 2 and in about 2010 there was only one service held during the day.

Prayer Breakfasts

The first Prayer Breakfast is recorded in 1995 and since that time members from all the churches have met at 8.00am on the first Saturday of the month on church premises a meal of rolls, preserves and tea and then about 45 minutes prayer. The style of prayer varies depending on who is running the session and in 2002 the Quakers joined the rota and took responsibility for one session out of every seven ,in introducing the concept of Quaker worship in silence. Outsiders have been invited to speak about their work either in the UK or in the field of foreign missions. Because of the issue of access currently the breakfast has been held in one of only four venues. However after September 2012 it is expected that the Catholic Church will have suitable premise in their new social centre in the Manor House.

Otley Agricultural Show

In 1981, it was felt that the churches should have a go at participate in the Otley Agricultural Show. Funds were made available for the hire of a marquee and this was filled with displays and audio visuals showing the range of activities within the churches. The venture was considered a success however the work was considerable. Although the marquee and furniture were supply and installed on site for us, security was a concern and the then curate Rev. Geoff Percival took it upon himself to spend the night in the marquee to protect the equipment.

In 2007 and 2008 The Churches Together in Otley decided to occupy a marquee at the show and although things went smoothly, despite poor weather, on both occasions it was doubted whether the outcome was worth the effort. Tea and coffee was provided free and yet the total number provided was in both years about 150 cups. In both years we attracted support from the local primary schools with a project requiring poster design and by so doing brought in people who would otherwise have passed by. Tradecraft was well represented with a large stall in the marquee and details of the work of the Churches Together and individual churches were on display. In 2008 half the tent was occupied by a puppet show that did attract a number of youngsters.

Otley Carnival

In June 1983 the Otley Carnival was started up and the churches for a few years participated. In the first year a Christian Aid stall was run, at the instigation of Larry Lazarus, in which people had the opportunity of breaking china. In 1984 we won the float competition and although we used a float for only 4 years the churches supported a Tradecraft stall right through to 1995. In the early years we booked two stalls and Christian books were sold by Ken Pollard.

Victorian Fair

Records suggest the Victorian Fair (Christmas) started up in 1985. Whereas this could be seen as primarily a commercial venture, it is an opportunity for charities and local organisations to get on display. Records indicate that from 1985 to 1988 the churches and Christian Aid managed up to two stalls. From time to time the churches become directly involved in other ways such as making the churches available and running carol sessions.

Christmas Lights

From as far back as the 1970’s the churches have always been involved at the turning on of the Christmas lights. This amounted to prayers, carols and a member of the clergy turning on the lights. In the last few years the increased secularisation of the event, the diminution of time allowed for carols and the non-participation of the crowd in the religious aspect of the event meant that the Churches felt that it was time to withdraw from the event. The last year of involvement was in 2007.

Carol Singing at Otley Hospital stopped in about 2005 because of the reduction of wards and lack of demand.

Bible Society

The Churches have had a continuous involvement with the Bible Society from the early days. The main focus has been funds and each year there has been some form of a money raising venture including coffee mornings and a Buttercross stall. The Council of Churches ran a separate bank account in the same way as Christian Aid and money for this account was sent to the Bible Society headquarters each year. In October there has been, in one of the churches, a "Women’s Rally" with a key speaker. The impression is that in recent years the energy to organise event has dwindled.

Other Activities and interests.

In 1999 and 2001/2 the OCCC produced newsletters with were printed and supplied to all the churches.

Also we have contributed occasionally to the Unity Post published by the local diocese of the Catholic Church as a once a year variation to the monthly free Catholic Post.

The table – "Time line" – which has been generated from the minutes since 1985 and other sources, gives a detailed record of the many activities and involvements of the Churches.

In summary the extra items not listed above are :

  • Activities in the Park- Wharfedale Meadows,

  • Vigils and public meetings regarding War, Peace, Menwith Hill and Disarmament.

  • Participation in public celebrations such as the Queen’s Jubilees

  • The running of the Nationally created Alpha Courses

  • Followed by a number of other outreach courses.

  • The Churches have made the effort to stay up to date with child protection, data protection and health and safety issues and adhere to current regulations and guidance.

  • Support for some locally run Marriage Courses

  • Financial and other support for the work of Faith in Schools in PHGS.

  • Special study days on topics such as Palestine and Israel.

Involvement in the secular side of local community includes

  • An Audit of the Town’s needs – Covenant made in 1992

  • Research into the needs on the Weston Estate

  • Introduction of Coffee Mornings on the Weston Estate

  • Support for Otley in Bloom

  • Every effort was made to introduce a Credit Union to the town but to date these efforts have failed for reasons beyond the CTO’s control.

  • 2010 and 2011 CTO ran a Party at the URC for Refugees in Leeds

  • Recognition of the difficulties created by Foot and Mouth Disease and show of support for the local farmers.

  • In 1994, research into the possibility of the introduction of a voluntary support agency for the elderly of Otley. The bid for money failed but this work was followed by a second venture that lead to the introduction of Otley Action for Older People in 1996

  • In 2011, The Churches Together commissioned and paid for a Celtic Cross to be placed in the Memorial Chapel of High Royds Psychiatric Hospital, on Buckle Lane, Menston which was restored by the Friends of High Royds Memorial Garden. The cross was designed and made by I.B. Thompson who constructed the Chevin Cross.

R.G. and R.S. Oct 2012