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Smoke-alarm evangelist

30 January 2007

by Margaret Duggan

HE EVEN persuaded me that we should get round to fitting smoke alarms. It has become his evangelistic concern. Stephen Rice, though not ordained, has become known as the “vicar in a van”.

He was trained by the diocese of Chelmsford as a lay evangelist, and has just finished his training by the Essex Fire and Rescue Service as a fire-safety officer; so evangelism is now his middle name. His job as Fire Safety Evangelist is a new one that grew out of a conversation the Fire Service Chaplain had with the Fire Chief, pointing out that the Church had the best network for spreading the fire-safety gospel in the community.

The new post was advertised just as Mr Rice was doing his evangelism training; he applied, and the job was his. A background as a scriptwriter, and previously in insurance, repairing lorries, and as a member of the West Mersea lifeboat crew, has been no disadvantage.

He has spent two months training with the Fire Service, shadowing the home-safety officers, and has been set up with his own special van (pictured). Now he has a programme to talk to church-related groups, clubs for the elderly, and all other groups, church or not, that he can reach, with the theme that “smoke alarms save lives.”

He will even be fitting them in people’s homes. His commissioning will take place later this month in Holy Trinity, Springfield, in Chelmsford. Meanwhile, he returns on Sundays to his parish church, St Peter and St Paul, West Mersea, where, as lay evangelist, he is licensed to give communion — and edits the parish magazine.

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