I was born in Bristol and went to university in Oxford and Durham – all exceptionally beautiful places – but since 1999 I’ve become a very happily adopted Mancunian. I find South Manchester the perfect place to live and work, to bring up our children and to serve the Church.
The North West is a surprising mix of urban and rural, and Greater Manchester has some of the most affluent areas outside London, as well as the most deprived. A number of parishes in the leafier parts of the region are twinned with inner-city church communities and work together on projects like furniture collection vans and food banks.
I work at Manchester Airport as Co-ordinating Chaplain, leading a work-based chaplaincy that supports 20,000 employees My parish is as diverse as you can get, and the rest of the world is very close indeed.
The Airport Chaplaincy provides support, care and counselling to the travelling public as well as the staff that work for the shops, airlines, fire and police services, baggage handling and immigration centre.
In such a large, complex environment each chaplain visits their group of staff regularly, building relationships and making themselves available so that people know who to approach if they need someone to talk to discreetly about a personal or spiritual matter.
The chaplaincy is valued highly by the Airport for its caring, supportive role. I enjoy the pastoral side of this ministry – connecting with people as a priest and helping them make links between their faith and the ups and downs of everyday life.
Having previously been vicar of the neighbouring parish, I can vouch that the Christian community in Greater Manchester is amazingly diverse with vibrant congregations representing every continent on the planet.
Greater Manchester has a strong identity; it’s the most genuinely cosmopolitan region outside of the capital. Watch the Manchester Day parade in June – one of the largest celebrations of its kind in the country – and you see that diversity expressed joyfully and above all, with the unique Lancastrian sense of humour.
Manchester’s cultural life; including world-class museums, theatre companies and venues, classical music (and more contemporary) and digital and broadcast media, is nationally and globally significant. Greater Manchester has some of the top performing sixth-form colleges, community schools, academies, grammar schools and independent schools in the country and the largest student population of any city after London.
Manchester’s annual rainfall is less than Sydney! You don’t even have to go far for fresh air, amazing views and wide open skies: the hills above Bolton, Bury and Oldham are on your doorstep.
Of course, other cities are available; Chester, Liverpool and Leeds all share a healthy rivalry, but transport links across the north come together in Manchester, so if you need to get away, it’s pretty easy. But you’ll want to come back.