FIRE and brimstone might be old hat in today’s Church, but going to blazes has become part of the weekly routine for the Revd James Menzies.
He has been Team Vicar in the Portland Team Ministry, on the Isle of Portland, since 2014, but this year he added the post of volunteer firefighter with the Dorset and Wiltshire fire service to his CV. He said that he has already dealt with calls “from the sublime to the ridiculous”, from rescuing a motorist stuck in his car after driving over a cliff to freeing a trapped seagull.
“It only a part-time thing,” he said. “It will never take over from my work as a priest. Apart from providing a service, it does provide a bit of variety and very helpfully takes me out of the church bubble which, in a sense, enriches my ministry and gets me more embedded in the community. I am grateful to the Church for letting me do this.
“I would hope it shows I am committed to serving people, and this is an ideal way to give the skills and time that I have. Hopefully, I am setting a good example. As Christian disciples, we need to help others and do what we can to serve God.”
When he was first approached last summer by fellow firefighters at the Portland station, he was not sure that the two positions would work together, and it might give his Team Rector additional work. “But in fact all we needed was a little bit of flexibility,” he said. “The Archdeacon was overwhelmingly positive. He thought it was fantastic for us. He saw it as a good way to be serving the community.”
Mr Menzies attended some drill evenings and then underwent a rigorous selection programme and basic training before being officially approved in January to be “On the Run”. Further specialist training such as using breathing apparatus will continue for the next couple of years.
He uses an online diary to fix the days he is available. “Some times, such as Sunday mornings, are sacrosanct, and I can block time off for weddings and the like, but it can mean that if I am at a coffee morning and the alert goes off, I have to drop everything and run. Last Saturday, I was called out at about 8.20 a.m. and I had a wedding at 1.30, so the Fire Service arranged for someone to take over from me. I’ve not yet had to turn up at an event still covered in soot and smelling of smoke.”
Earlier his year he received a round of applause as he responded to a shout during the parish fête. “My parishioners have been very positive about it,” he said. “They see it as a good thing to be involved in, and they quite like the idea.”
The Archdeacon of Dorset, the Ven. Antony MacRow-Wood, said: “More power to James’s elbow. This is a great way of getting involved in the wider community and serving the whole community.”