Reporter – Judith Grinter
With a nose ring, a love for a pint, a background in working with children and a keen tinkler of the ivories, Aaron isn’t your average Vicar.
Aaron grew up in Manchester and has recently taken on a position as Curate in Saddleworth. I went for a coffee and a chat with him at his home in Dobcross Rectory:
You have pumpkin lanterns on your doorstep. Do you celebrate Halloween?
Contemporary Halloween celebrations are of darkness. Because of the focus on that we often miss the opportunity to celebrate the season; the falling of the leaves, the changing in colours, creation. Acknowledge the thin veil between life and death, as the leaves are falling it’s the sign of death before we move to light of advent and Christmas. So my wife and I and our two children light candles, carve pumpkins and think of those in our family and friends that we’ve lost.
You’ve done a lot in your 34 yrs. Tell us about some of it.
I’ve fallen into a number of jobs – when I was doing my Musicology Master’s Degree at Leeds University, I was working as a teaching assistant. Then, when I was 22, I was given the opportunity for a full-time post at a children’s referral unit in Leeds. Soon after, with family and a new romantic connection in Manchester, I moved back. I got a job running the flagship Powerhouse Library, the only young people’s library in Manchester. I’m not a librarian but I have experience in working with children. My official title was young People’s Officer.
Then I moved onto working with ex-offenders in local Prisons, fitting and supporting them with suitable volunteering opportunities.
Soon after I began to take this calling. I like life, life is an adventure. As long as I’m open to love, learning, everything that comes my way is ok.
How’s it going, moving to Saddleworth?
It’s taken a month or two to settle in, but we really feel at home now. People have been very welcoming. My wife’s into faming and loves the geese, sheep, chickens, cats and dog that we now have roaming around the Rectory. Being a city boy and girl, it’s lovely to come home to this rural place. To us, this is as rural as it gets: The beauty of the hills, the rain and the mist. It helps to put things into perspective, when I look around at it all, life is OK.
As an ethnic minority, it has been an interesting experience, as well as being an ethnic minority and a vicar. I’m only one of 1.5% of all clergy who are BAME , which is not representative of BAME people in the country (about 15%). It’s traditionally English in Saddleworth, I’m second generation West Indian. So to come into this environment, that is very accepting of my dog collar, it’s given me a lot to reflect in, to the beauty of diversity.
Which Church do you work with?
Saddleworth is a Benefice, it’s a team structure –it includes a number of different Parishes held together by the team. I work right across the team, I don’t have a Parish I’m responsible for. I’m a roving minister, I don’t have a Church I’m responsible for, although I have licence to explore which Church is right for me and work with them more in the future.
You’re known for working with young people. Tell us about this.
I’m 34, I’m young! I’m the youngest in the Saddleworth Benefice team. I work right across the team and don’t have my own Church to be responsible for. I do a youth drop-in, I’m also arranging a ‘Team Away’ for young parents and children. I’m also involved with the Parish Centre in Uppermill, it’s a little more informal and people and explore. We have a lot of young parents come. I often play the piano there. I also play at St Anne’s in Lydgate. I do assemblies on a Tuesday at the Delph Primary School.
My main message to the children is that they are great, they are special. I hope they can take that away and express it themselves and help to make the community even better.
Tell us about your love of a pint:
I like going to the pub on a Monday or a Friday, to the Swan or the Band Club in Dobcross. Hopefully I’m going to make it a regular thing where people can come and chat about things a little deeper than just pub chat in a familiar place. Hopefully this’ll be starting in the new year.
What’s the best thing about Saddleworth?
The people are genuinely welcoming. It helps me to feel settled and affirmed.
I’m just me. I’m not the usual vicar, but I’m hopefully a welcome surprise to people.