FOR a decade Liverpool’s bombed out church has been a seven-day-a-week passion for Ambrose Reynolds.
So it was hardly surprising that he was tearful this week when told he would have to hand over the keys to the roofless landmark at the top of Bold Street.
St Luke’s is being closed for three months to enable urgent repair work to be carried out to crumbling stonework.
When Ambrose hands over that bunch of heavy keys at the end of August he doesn’t know if he will ever get them back.
During the £150,000 repair job, funded by the city council and Heritage England, a major consultation exercise will be carried out asking people for their views on the future role for St Luke’s. After that, organisations who think they can run the church in line with the results of the consultation will be formally invited to submit expressions of interest.
I know the council is inviting other expressions of interest. I am sure our own programme will be the best and hard to beat
Ambrose told Liverpool Confidential: “When I was told on Monday I’d have to hand over the keys it was very emotional. My wife looked at me and said, ‘are you crying’. I don’t mind admitting I’ve not felt so emotional since I watched Bambi.
“But then the bombed out church has been my life for so long, I have spent tens of thousands of hours in the place, looking after it, keeping it going.
“It’s importance to me - and to Liverpool - hit home just recently when a couple walked in and said they’d seen an online feature about our church and they decided they had to come to see it.
“They had travelled all the way from Uzbekistan, just to see a bombed out church in Liverpool. That was incredible.”
St Luke’s, almost destroyed by the Luftwaffe, has survived to become a major Liverpool landmark and gathering point. And, naturally, a song has been written about it.
Meet Me On The Steps of the Bombed Out Church was written by the band Silent Sleep. They are performing in the church on Saturday.
Said Ambrose: “My links to the church go back to the days of Urban Strawberry Lunch, but they became closer when a council official invited me to run the place. There was nothing in writing, but it seemed he was keen for somebody to look after it. He left a few years ago, so things have continued in an informal way.
“It was our own idea to ask for repair work to be done as it was obvious money needed to be spent on the building. What is being looked at further down the line is a much bigger project costing around £2.5m."
He went on: “I know the council is inviting other expressions of interest. I am sure our own programme will be the best and hard to beat."
Ambrose, son of veteran journalists Gillian and Stanley Reynolds, has gathered around him a group of bombed out church disciples, young people and volunteers, with as much passion for the place as he has.
"We had a young student from LIPA, Ashley True, to do a business plan. His work was so impressive it earned him a first, but it also means our future plans have been externally validated."
The church has not escaped the radar of businesses either. “Next week we Liverpool Organic Brewery will be doing a four day beer festival and at the end of the month there will be an indoor marquee for events by Liverpool Cavern and the University of Liverpool," Ambrose said.
“The place is becoming so popular so I know it will have a great future.
“It will be nerve-wracking for me, as we wait to see what the future holds. But at least there is a chance to have things on a formal footing, with a lengthy, 30-year lease.
“Our whole team is obsessed with the place and keeping it going. I suppose we could look at this like a snap election, and we are waiting for the results,” added Ambrose, the man who brought to life a forgotten church at the top of Bold Street with its broken clock and glassless windows.