DETECTIVE Chief Superintendents do not always get a good image
in TV dramas: they often lose out to the maverick Chief Inspectors,
who are the real heroes. But the Supers, too, have been through the
ranks, and have seen a great deal more of human life in all its
manifestations than almost any of us.
Somehow, Alistair Helm, now 59, kept his faith, and, in
mid-career, he was ordained. It was his colleagues in the
Leicestershire Police, especially the Chief Constable, who were
accepting and supportive of his dual role, he says, and he was
often asked for advice about baptisms and weddings.
"The photocopier was an unusual place to be asked, 'What's all
this incarnation stuff about then?'" There was also mickey-taking,
and the daily morning conference became known as Morning Prayers.
But he realised how police work could deaden compassion and
increase cynicism. "Each morning, you see a new list of domestic
violence, child-protection allegations, woundings, and burglaries;
but you have to remind yourself you are 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."
He retired from the police in 2008, and has spent the past three
years as a priest in the Yorkshire Dales in
Bradford diocese, looking after the churches in
Giggleswick and Rathmell with Wigglesworth, where he enjoyed
getting to know the farming community.
Now he has a parish of his own. He was recently licensed as
Priest-in-Charge of Manningham, where 80 per cent of the population
is Muslim. "There's a wonderful - if small - congregation, but
they're all very committed. We're here for the 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."