After 25 years’ work in Barnt Green and Cofton Hackett, the Rev. Canon Rob Fieldson is hanging up his cassock. Here, he reflects on the changes he has seen.
I came to be Vicar of Cofton Hackett and Barnt Green in July 1995, little realising that this would be the place from where I’d retire nearly 26 years later.
In the intervening years Philippa and I have brought up two children, made many friends, seen lots of exciting things happen in the church and community, and grow to love this area on the edge of the city yet surrounded by beautiful countryside.
A lot has changed in that time. I used to say I’d never go to a church with a building project. But in our years here we’ve seen major restoration and reordering of both St Michael’s and St Andrew’s churches, refurbishment of the Parish Centre, extensions to St Andrew’s School, and most recently the construction in Cofton Hackett of a new village hall, of which I’m a trustee.
We’ve also seen hundreds of new houses going up around the parish, perhaps with more to come.
Things have changed in the church as well. While congregations of some of the traditional services have declined, there’s been growth in the more informal services, such as all-age worship, Messy Church, and the new Foundry congregation in Cofton Fields.
And there’s been a proliferation of small groups like Monday Fellowship, men’s breakfasts, book club, craft group, celebrating women, mid-week children’s groups and much more.
None of this could have happened without a fantastic team. We’ve been blessed with great curates, children’s workers, parish administrators, Readers, church wardens, and lots of other gifted and committed people who contribute in all sorts of ways.
The church really is the people not the building.
We’ve learnt that the hard way over the last year. Because of lock-down, worship in church has been impossible for many months and we’ve grown to value Zoom worship and the new possibilities it offers.
When I decided to retire at the end of April 2021 (just after turning 65) I didn’t realise that church worship would still be limited and farewell events impossible. Perhaps we’ll come back for that some time in future.
We will be very sad to say goodbye to all the people we’ve grown to know and love in the church and community here, but are excited to be moving to Grantham in my home county of Lincolnshire.
It’s just off the A1, and visitors will always be welcome.
And we know we leave a church where the work of God will continue, where there’s a welcome for young and old, and which will go on serving the community around it for many years to come.