Empty church is full of love...again

A disused, empty church certainly rang the bells of one lovestruck American couple who wanted relive history.Ipswich church St.Peter's, which lies next to Stoke Bridge has not been opened for the last three years, but Michelle Johnson's dream of retracing the steps of her mother and grandmother was enough to tug on anyone's heartstrings.

By James Fraser

A disused, empty church certainly rang the bells of one lovestruck American couple who wanted relive history.

Ipswich church St.Peter's, which lies next to Stoke Bridge has not been opened for the last three years, but Michelle Johnson's dream of retracing the steps of her mother and grandmother was enough to tug on anyone's heartstrings.

Her mother Patricia Finn and her grandmother Dorothy Smith were both married at the church and Patricia was even baptised there.


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So, on Sunday, Mrs Johnson and her husband Terrell both from North Carolina, USA retraced the steps of her family with a blessing of their own marriage where her mother and grandmother once stood.

Her mother, Mrs Finn, 63, moved to North Carolina in 1963 shortly after her marriage to Michelle's father Luke, who was an American.

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Mrs Finn had grown up in Ipswich, living in Tyler Street until she was eight-years-old before the family moved to Coleridge Road. The family eventually moved back to Tyler Street where her grandparents lived.

It was more than a year ago that Mrs Johnson, 33 was planning a trip with Terrell, 35 and their two children Trey, 10 and Nathaniel aged three to visit England and see where Mrs Finn lived when she was growing up.

Mrs Johnson said: "I kept asking mum whether it would be possible to renew our vows in the church where she got married but she said it was impossible because it was all locked up.

"I got in touch with the tourist office in Ipswich and they were wonderful.

"I told them about the story of my gran and grandad and my mum and dad being married here and they were thrilled and said that they would make it possible for me."

The ball was set in motion and on December 23 Michelle, Terrell, Trey, Nathaniel and Patricia all came over to spend Christmas in England ready for their big day.

The service was led by the Rev Peter Townley.

Although Mrs Johnson's father Luke died four years ago, Mr Johnson was wearing his tie especially for the occasion.

Mrs Johnson said: "It is really sad not to have him here. I think he would have been too emotional to even speak."

For Mrs Finn it has been a real trip back in time. She has been visiting her sister Katherine Adams who lives in Howard Street and her brother John Smith who lives in Waltham Close.

She said: "I think it is amazing that they are doing this. It means a lot."

Mrs Johnson will even take the bible that her mother carried at her wedding 40 years ago with her during the blessing.

After the service the Johnsons wanted to stand in exactly the same position that Mrs Finn and her mum both stood in to have photographs taken so the photos through the ages can then be lined up next to one another.

FAMILY HISTORY PANEL:

October 30 1937 – Stanley and Dorothy Smith were married at St.Peter's Church.

September 1939 – Patricia Smith (now Finn) was baptised at the same church.

August 18 1962 – Patricia married Luke Finn at St.Peter's Church.

May 27 1989 – Michelle and Terrell were married in North Carolina.

January 2003 – Michelle and Terrell renew their vows at St.Peter's Church.

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