Go back to normal view
On Tuesday 2 October, the Revd Alistair Helm will be licensed by the Bishop of Bradford as Priest in Charge of St Paul’s, Manningham. A former Detective Chief Superintendent and Head of CID in Leicestershire, Alistair spent 17 years combining his ministry with his police work.
He says, “I had a wide range of responsibilities including the Murder Investigation Teams, Surveillance Units, Special Branch as well as child abuse and financial investigations. Some people assumed that because I was a priest I wouldn’t be an effective police officer, but when you try and bring what the Christian faith demands of us into the workplace then you will achieve".
He says his colleagues, especially the Chief Constable, were very accepting and supportive of his dual role: “They’d ask about baptisms and weddings, and I was able to direct people to their own local churches. The photocopier was an unusual place to be asked ‘what’s all this incarnation stuff about then?'! Police Officers are well known for their humour and there was micky-taking too – the daily morning conference became known as ‘Morning Prayers’ and cellophane was stuck on my office windows to create stained glass windows!”
But he recognises that police work has the potential to deaden compassion and increase cynicism. He says, “Each morning you see a new list of domestic violence, child protection allegations, woundings and burglaries, but you have to remind yourself you're dealing with the extremes of society, and my faith tells me that God is at the centre of all of us, even the worst of criminals”.
Alistair retired from the police in 2008 and has spent the last three years as a priest in the Yorkshire Dales, looking after the churches in Giggleswick, Rathmell and Wigglesworth. He says, “I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the farmers and learning about a rural environment. But in essence, the pastoral care is still the same as in the city - behind those charming cottage doors there is often poverty and stress”.
In his new Manningham parish, 80% of the population is Muslim, but, he says, the church hasn’t taken flight. He says, “There’s a wonderful, if small, congregation but they’re all very committed - we’re here for whole parish and we’re here for the long term. I’ve already met quite a few of our neighbours and they’re glad to have us – they want the Christian faith to be proclaimed as well.
“In terms of the future, I’d like the church building, which is in the centre of Manningham, to be at the heart of the community. We're blessed with useful space, both outside and inside the building, and we must make sure its potential is realised for the benefit of all the people in Manningham. That's one way of showing God’s love for everyone in a practical way.
"First of all, though, I’m going to spend my time listening and getting to know people in the area. It’s amazing who comes to talk to you when you sit on a bench with a bag of chips!”
Alistair will be licensed at 7.30pm on Tuesday 2 October at St Paul’s, Manningham.