VILLAGERS and regular drinkers at the Falcon pub, in Pulham Market, a village in south Norfolk, have welcomed its new owners: the Revd Carl Melville and his partner, Steve Smart. Mr Melville, currently Rector of Bacton with Wyverstone, Cotton and Old Newton, and Wickham Skeith, in the diocese of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich, takes up a new post as Rector of Pulham Market at the end of September.
Mr Smart has worked in hospitality for 17 years. When the pub that he managed changed landlords, the couple decided to look at vacant pubs to see whether owning one themselves was feasible. On a return visit to the Falcon, they noticed that, in the church opposite, the benefice was in vacancy. Mr Melville applied for and was offered the post.
“I don’t think a vacant pub and a vacant church was a coincidence; rather, a blessing,” he said. “For Steve, it is a place of business, which he does incredibly well to the best of his abilities; and, for me, it is a place of mission.”
Pub and church marry well together, he observes: they have common challenges, and people are at the heart of both. “People who are looking for drink and refreshment, people who are looking for truth and salvation. Jesus’s ministry used drink and refreshment. . . Jesus met people at watering wells, with the message that he was the water of life.”
He will be helping to run the pub in his spare time and on his day off. Both have completed extensive training: “An everyday experience for Steve, but an eye-opener for me.” The opening night was well attended, and they managed to serve a “mind-blowing” 150 people.
“The conversations have flowed, and, although talking about religion, politics, and money in a pub usually never really works, talking about what I do as a priest has been quite natural. People have been really interested in why I’m supporting Steve here. Some of the church folk in the area have popped in to see their new vicar, too. We have been made so welcome by everyone,” Mr Melville said.
“We are not a Christian pub, and that will never be the case. But I hope, even if we don’t talk to people about Jesus, they see some warmth and love in the welcome and hospitality we provide to those who come seeking refreshment. I pray that for the Falcon, and I pray that for my new benefice, too.”