Ten day's ago the information came into the public domain that Father Gott was to be moved to another parish and the muttering started. The muttering became louder and louder as the news spread through the valley and Felicity at the Book Case in Hebden Bridge started a petition to try and halt the move. The Mytholmroyd.net decided to help. We were told it was very unlikely that we would make any difference.
Mytholmroyd and Hebden Bridge buzzed and petitions were passed around and people signed and muttered some more. There was scant hesitation about signing the petitions or leaving them in the shops. Most people were chunnering as they signed about some good that Father Gott had done for them, for a friend or for the community generally. Many of them added "I'm not a catholic but I don't think he should go - he works for the community as a whole."
By Friday 18th July when the The Hebden Bridge Times headline read "ANGER AS PRIEST IS TOLD TO GO - village petitions church to reconsider move" the mutterings turned to shouts as one man was overheard in the newsagents in Mytholmroyd saying :
If he does have to go we will have the biggest outside party ever as a send off - because there won't be a venue that is big enough inside".
The Hebden Bridge Times went on to say: The ground swell of public opposition to the move is almost unheard of in the local community and is a tribute to Father Gott's creative, caring and ecumenical work in the area. quoting a spokesperson from the church as saying: The petition and other activities in Hebden Bridge are completely separate from the church action but the congregation greatly appreciate the support and encouragement being given to Father Gott by the wider community where we know he is held in high regard.
Petitions were taken by Hebden Bridge Parish Church, Hope Baptist Church and Hebden Bridge Methodist Church and placed in many places in Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd.
At 11.30 on Saturday 19th July Felicity from the Book Case rang the Mytholmroyd.net to say that the petitions were being collected in and that the decision to move Father Gott had been rescinded.
Father Gott spoke to the Mytholmroyd.net on Saturday afternoon of his enormous gratitude to the community, of his desire to collect the petitions so that he can, if possible, write and thank everyone who signed and spoke of the great courage of the Bishops in rescinding the decision. He said "all of this activity on my behalf was going on without me knowing".
The link provided here charts Father Gott's progress through the church from appointment to St Austin's on August 15th 1974 to arriving in Hebden Bridge in 1980. In it Fr Gott says of Hebden Bridge "and nothing that happens surprises anybody!" but I think many of us have been surprised at the strength of community feeling over the last ten days and are delighted with the outcome.