Can you fix the spire, Revd Titley?

New priest arrives at Cally Road church – and her first big challenge may have already been spotted by neighbours

Friday, 25th February — By Anna Lamche

Caroline+Titley new

Reverend Caroline Titley

A JOB advert seeking someone with a background in both building and theology may be niche, but Barnsbury’s new priest fortunately fits the bill.

Thornhill Square residents are likely to see a new face around town as Reverend Caroline Titley takes charge of St Andrew’s Church off Cally Road.

One of her first challenges will be obvious to anybody who has seen the church recently.

“If you walk past you’ll see the spire is encased in material to protect people from falling masonry, and there’s a separate problem with subsidence – there’s a big crack at the east end of the Church,” Revd Titley said.

For this reason part of the job description is spiritual – “growing the church as a beacon of hope,” Revd Titley said – and part is practical: “they did also mention they would like someone with some knowledge of building.”

Revd Titley fits both criteria, with a long career as the chief executive of a housing association behind her.

Having been ordained in 2017, she’s relatively new to the Church.

“This is my first leadership role in the church, although I’ve been the leader of a housing association for nine years,” she said.

The spire at St Andrew’s needs some work

She is set to meet with architects soon to discuss the building’s problems – and to put a price tag on the work.

“There are substantial sums of money we’re going to have to raise,” she said.

“In due course, we will be fundraising. We’re dealing with buildings that are old, and once buildings become old, things can go wrong.

“But I think there are issues across the country with the funds available for the maintenance of churches.

“In some continental countries, they have church taxes, and the state actually pays for the maintenance of churches.

“In England, it’s the congregations that are responsible for raising the money and supervising the works.”

While congregations decline across England, the cost of church maintenance does not – every year, roughly 30 Church of England churches close for worship.

As well as hosting the Sunday service, the building is home to a Montessori, Kumon homework sessions and drama groups, among other things.

This community reach is something the new priest hopes to expand further as she settles in, with a particular focus on children and young people.

“My son is a youth worker and I hear a lot from him about the problems faced by young people, and the need to have provisions which can prevent them getting involved in things they shouldn’t be,” she said.

Revd Titley, who is a keen piano player and mountain walker, sees her first challenge as that of “recovery from all that Covid has thrown at churches” – which at times meant being forced to close to worshippers.

On Sunday, Revd Titley will officially become the priest-in-charge of Barnsbury, with a formal ‘licensing service’ held by the Bishop of Stepney, Joanne Grenfell.

There Ms Titley will be given responsibility for the “cure of souls” in the area. “I am excited but also humbled, because that’s quite a responsibility,” she said.

Related Articles