Two churches in our benefice, All Saints Tibenham and St Michael Aslacton had been thinking about hosting a fundraising event for a while, when they heard about people abseiling from a few other church towers in Norfolk.
Standing at 87 feet high, All Saints Tibenham is the tallest tower in the benefice and it seemed to qualify. All that was needed was for a mountaineer to carry out an inspection. They would ensure all the health and safety checks were sorted together with insurance so that people were safe to climb the tower. After the go ahead from the mountaineer, a date was set and the churches started looking for brave volunteers who were willing to do a sponsored abseil from All Saints Tibenham.
Abseiling from a church tower is not an opportunity that happens often, so I put my name down and my son (13) and my husband did too. I was anticipating for it to be quite a challenge for me, as I had never before done any rock climbing, let alone abseiling. When I was a bit younger heights were always exciting, but over the years heights have become daunting. I however managed to convince myself that the view from the tower and the feeling of freedom while hanging from the tower would outweigh my fears, so I went for it.
As the day came closer, my apprehension grew but so did the excitement! Getting to the top of the tower was an unexpected challenge. The staircase was narrow, dark and round and the final few steps were a very wobbly ladder. I pulled myself through the trap door and onto the roof. All I could think about was how I was not looking forward to going down the side of the tower while being suspended from some rope! In hindsight I thought the narrow stairs and wobbly ladder didn’t seem too bad after all!
But I had come this far, I might as well commit. I was especially grateful to the mountaineers who did the briefing before the climb up and abseil down the tower. They were available to answer any questions (I had many) and made sure everyone was comfortable, calm and confident and everyone was free to do it at his or her own pace.
As I looked around, the view from the tower was amazing. The fields surrounding were all different colours, Tibenham airfield was just a short distance away and I could see the other church towers across the countryside. Looking out into the distance was beautiful, but then I looked down at the people below who seemed very small and far away. I could hear them cheering, but I was nervous!
When it was my turn to brave the climb I was filled with adrenaline. Many had said before me that the hardest part is getting yourself over the parapet of the church tower. Fortunately there was a ledge where I could stand just before my descent and try to calm down my then very rapid heartbeat. I had watched the other volunteers go before me, some careful, others dared to hop a bit, but all had been controlled and peaceful. I opted for somewhere in the middle, very careful at first but then started shouting as I descended, letting go of my fears and pushing myself off the tower. I enjoyed the feeling of freedom while hanging in the air and still feeling completely safe and in control. The experience was very exhilarating and cathartic, I would definitely do it again if I am given the opportunity.
I am really grateful for the people who sponsored us, because we raised over £500 for the two churches and we trust this will be put to good use. All the money raised will be divided equally between the two churches and even before the event started the costs were covered by generous sponsors.
The experience was not only exciting but a learning curve and a reminder of faith. We put our trust in the equipment and put our safety in the hands of the mountaineers. We thank God for the successful event and the safety of everyone. It brought the church family and community together, giving us all an exciting adventure to talk about for quite some time.