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Reverend Roger Wild

Rector of the Parish of Barwick-in-Elmet with Scholes 1993-2001

from The Barwicker No.64

Roger resigned as Rector of the parish in September, in order to take up a theological teaching post in Uganda. This is a transcript of a recorded interview for Barwick-in-Elmet Historical Society archives using the splendid tape recorder donated by Raymond Franks and operated by Hugh Hawkins. 

Roger is the 52nd rector of the parish since 1190 and he said it was a humbling experience to be aware of such weight of historical precedence, going back 900 years. He was born in 1940 and the Second World War had a dominating influence on his boyhood.

Roger's father was killed before El Alamein and the shattering blow of losing him, together with Nazi tyranny in a horrendous war, had a tremendous effect on him, helping to reinforce his Christian values.

Roger was trained at the London College of Divinity, being ordained at the age of 25 in Bradford Cathedral. He first served as curate for three years at St. Peter's Shipley, before moving to the parish church at Pudsey, where he worked for another three years.

Roger married Diana who has been a very great source of strength, support and encouragement to him, as have their three children Emma, Vicky and Benjamin. He moved to the Wakefield Diocese as vicar, serving an urban priority area in Huddersfield for eight years. It was at this time that he had to confront the many problems associated with deprived areas and their attendant racial issues. He and Di have always been proud of their involvement with young people and the establishment of Sunday schools has been a dominant feature of their ministry.

The work continued when he moved to Holy Trinity Chuch, Ripon. While there he served as Rural Dean, as well as acting for thirteen years as Chaplain to the 38th. Regiment of the Royal Engineers. It was in this position that he maintained his link with and respect for the military, enjoying the friendship of six commanding Officers over the years.

After a very demanding 15 years at Ripon, Roger was appointed to Barwick and Scholes in 1993. Here he has thoroughly enjoyed the challenging ministry of All Saints', an ancient Norman church, together with the splendid new St. Philip's church at Scholes. At Barwick he said, 'the stone and stained glass windows speak to you, there is a witness of stone inside and outside.' He spoke movingly of the privilege of leading worship and of drawing strength from the heritage of 900 years of Christian worship. He commented that Christmas time was particularly poignant with christingle services and candlelit midnight carols sung by the scarlet robed choir.

Roger spoke enthusiastically of the last decade, referring to the growth and enlargement of St Philip's and its success in attracting young people. He emphasised the unity and spirit of the whole parish and is proud that the administration and financing of both churches is now better than ever.

Both churches have recently undergone some re-ordering and modernisation. Barwick was 'in danger of becoming a museum piece,' he commented, emphasising the need to be constantly updating and responding to new challenges presented by society. Roger is delighted with the development of the Narthex area including the kitchen and toilet, which will foster the development and community use of the church.

The vast expense of change means that only the first phase has been completed at Barwick and he spoke passionately about further developments which need to be undertaken by his successors; priorities being re-wiring, re-lighting and decorating the church.

Improvements at St Philip's have created a warm, versatile, well-lit, modern carpeted church, reflecting its open happy optimistic approach to worship and growth. Further developments will take place in a phase two programme. When discussing the future, Roger emphasises that real progress did not lie with individuals as much as with a collection of anonymous people focused in faith, imbued with the spirit of Jesus Christ and inspiring the community to find new wine skins for new wine.

The important thing he said was the ability to bring a new focus to society's changing needs and for the church to adapt to its new challenges and responsibilities. The new Common Worship giving greater variety and participation in services has been very well received in the parish, reflecting well on new approaches to teaching and preaching. This more sensitive approach is helping to present and interpret the faith, to show its perennial relevance in the face of the enormous changes of mindset we have seen during the last twenty years. Roger is constantly at pains to emphasise that the Christian faith needs interpreting for today.

Two particularly significant events marked the end of the Second Millennium. On 5th. November at All Saints', the Archbishop of York presided at the millennium service commemorating over nine hundred years of Christian worship and witness in the parish; this was followed by a parish lunch in the Village Hall. The second event was the midnight service at All Saints' on New Year's Eve when the church was packed to capacity. A torch lit procession around the maypole followed, giving the festivities an excellent start. Scholes also had a special service and torchlight procession round part of the village.

Roger and Di are keen to teach in Africa. He first became interested in the continent as a ten year old because of his cousin's influence and in recent years has taken the opportunity to visit South Africa, Congo, Zimbabwe and Uganda.

Roger said that the growth and importance of Christianity in Africa is far more significant than we appreciate in this country; he considers our society has become so secularised and money orientated that we have denuded our faith and can learn a great deal from post-colonial Africa.

Roger spoke of his own humbling experiences in the Congo when he and Di visited their daughter and son-in-law. The depth of faith of many people impressed him and he recalled the poverty of medical provision for very many large numbers of people and the degree of deprivation they endured. He thinks we have forgotten much of what we should have remembered about Christianity and we should try to understand developments in modern Africa.

Working under the auspices of the Church Missionary Society, Roger will help to train students for the ministry and both he and Di will enjoy meeting large numbers of people in the characteristically well-attended congregations. He said that in Uganda there were more Anglicans than in England and Nigeria had more Anglicans than England, North America and Australasia combined. In Congo it was said that you either have God or nothing.

Roger and Di are taking a courageous step in leaving the comfort and security of our parish for an unknown African adventure. He said he would miss his family, friends and church festivals along with the blue skies, cold frosty mornings, and a cool English garden. Roger is extremely grateful for the first class support and encouragement he has received from the parish and we are proud of his many achievements here.

We all wish Roger and Di a very happy and satisfying three-year tour of duty before they return to retirement in Yorkshire. Roger will be proud to reflect on the fact that his name, written in gold, is the last one on the Rectors' board in Barwick church, following those of Norman Butcher, Glynn Wilkinson and Terry Munro. It will be there as long as the church stands. A new board will have to be commissioned for the next series of rectors as we look down the millennium from the strength of an honourable and distinguished past, seamlessly linked to the present and future through Jesus Christ.


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