HIS classic 1963 Triumph Tiger T100A is as big an attraction in the shopping centre as his clerical collar — or, more likely, it is the combination of the two that encourages people to come to talk to him. The Revd Michael Proctor is Vicar of St Cuthbert’s, Church Morton, near Middlesbrough, in York diocese, and has a flourishing church, at one end of his parish, which has a population of 20,000.
There was once a proposal for a church building at the other end of the parish, but it never happened, and the Parkway Shopping Centre, in Coulby Newham, is a long way from St Cuthbert’s.
So, for the past six weeks, Mr Proctor has been going to the shopping centre by bike, to talk to people and to raise the profile of the church. The result has been “brilliant”, he says. It has not yet brought anyone new to the parish church, but he has had plenty of conversations — many of them beginning with an expression of surprise that a vicar should ride a motorbike.
On his sixth and final visit (for the time being), he took a number of invitation cards that listed all the events at St Cuthbert’s, such as an open day, café, lunch club, and barn dance, in the hope that they might tempt a few people to try out what the parish has to offer.
He does not know the result yet, but he is going to go on trying. He tells me that he is intending to approach Tesco, to see if he can run a weekly café church in its café.