His own patch

12 October 2012

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."


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