Go back a few decades and most villages the size of Barrow had their own parish priest, often living in a sprawling (but freezing) vicarage with a large garden. Oh - and all the clergy were male of course.
The days of one parish and one priest are long gone. Rob Paddison, the vicar of Barrow-upon-Soar, is also the vicar of Walton, Wymeswold and Prestwold, which includes Cotes, Hoton and Burton. Fortunately he has the support of a wider team of individuals - they all (apart from Rob) work on a part-time basis. They include the most recent addition to the team, Rev Elizabeth York, who was ordained last summer.
She will serve in this parish for around three years. Rev. Simon Richardson is a non-stipendiary priest (in other words he doesn’t get paid - although he does have a house for duty) who lives in Wymeswold. There are also two readers and a Children and Families lay minister. Rather to my surprise, Rob told me that, despite the size of the parish, there is at least one service in each church every Sunday. In order to achieve this and to make sure that the person leading the service has time to spend with the congregation before and afterwards, there is at least a 2-hour gap between one service and the next.
Rob has now been in the village for almost five years so when we met he was able to reflect on his time here so far. When he first moved to Barrow, the new extension (Trinity Rooms, adjoining Holy Trinity Church) had not been completed. Now it is well used by a variety of groups, including dance classes, Brownies, men’s group, Mother’s Union, Little Angels (a pre-school group), and TLC (Trinity Luncheon Club) - a group to support carers of people with dementia.
Rob talked about the significant events that often bring people into contact with the church - marriages, the birth of a child, the death of a loved one. For many, these events encourage a sense of awe, a time of questioning and reflection. Rob explained that building relationships with families over time is one of the most satisfying and important parts of his role The birth of a child is a time of great joy but, as any new parent will I am sure agree, it can also be a time of considerable turmoil, tiredness and stress. ‘Starting Rite. You, your baby and God’ is a course for babies and their parents that runs three times a year. The work has been developed in Barrow by Jenny Paddison, (Rob’s wife and herself an ordained priest) building on work that she and Rob did in Newcastle. Jenny has written a book, ‘Starting Rite’ which has been published by Church House. The course, which is open to anyone, offers a chance to spend time with other new parents, thinking about all manner of related topics. Years ago there were fewer choices about wedding venues - it was either church or registry offi ce. However, many people still opt for a traditional (or sometimes not quite so traditional) church wedding and Holy Trinity remains a popular choice.
Rob described the grief of bereavement and loss as a journey. He hopes that the church can, in some way, walk alongside those who travel this journey of grief, recognising that it goes on for a long time.
Finally Rob spoke about the enjoyment he gains from working with the staff and pupils of Hall Orchard Primary School. Along with ministers from other denominations, he regularly takes assemblies in the school. Classes also visit the church as part of the ongoing curriculum, learning about life events and how they are marked and thinking about the choices they can make about their life and beliefs.
Our conversation covered several other topics - job satisfaction, work/ life balance, the nature and defi nition of Christian values, the benefi ts of walking as a way of combatting stress and, surprisingly enough (or perhaps not since it was the day that Leicester was presented with their trophy) football. I am grateful to Rob for his time.