HALF a century of Christian collaboration was celebrated at a special service in Old Town.

The first-of-its-kind Old Town Partnership of Churches brought together Anglican, Methodist and United Reform congregations in 1969 to combine their resources and help the wider community.

Martin Palmer’s father Derek formed the partnership all those years ago, so it was fitting that he gave the sermon held at Bath Road Methodist Church to mark the occasion.

He said: “It’s wonderful to come back to this place that my father loved so much and gave his extraordinary energy to help create the ecumenical parish we’re celebrating.

“I was 14 when we moved to Swindon and it was quite a revelation!”

Mr Palmer’s good-humoured sermon praised the good that can come from different groups in one faith uniting and reaching out to other major faiths like Judaism, Islam and Buddhism to change the world for the better, like combatting climate change.

He added: “What we bring in our diversity gives us the strength to move forward, it’s great to see a better understanding of different traditions than there was 50 years ago.”

South Swindon MP Robert Buckland and Mayor of Swindon Junab Ali attended the service, which concluded with a pledge being read out which promised to continue the partnership’s good work, and a cake being cut to share amongst the congregation.

Churchgoers including Wally Knight enjoyed the service. He said: “It’s great to see so many people coming together to celebrate the anniversary, it’s a nice occasion. I go to the United Reform Church but come to this church once a year for this service, it’s always good fun.”