REVEREND Duncan Rhodes has been a familiar and welcoming face across Saddleworth for the last 24 years.
Now, as he retires, he reflects back on his life and work in the community.
“Thank you and God Bless you.
I write as an 82-year-old who feels that now is the time to step aside and I wish to express my gratitude for the fellowship and support of the parish in my twenty-four years of ordained ministry.
Thank you seems so very inadequate when I reflect on the privileges life has dealt me.
I was made in Diggle in 1934, born in St Mary’s Hospital in 1935 and went to Diggle School from 1940 to 1946.
A West Riding scholarship enabled me to attend the Hulme Grammar School from 1946 to 1953, where I was Deputy Head Boy, Platt House Captain and was awarded soccer colours and athletics Victor Ludorum.
In 1953-56 I was studying for my BSc Textile Degree at Leeds University and played soccer on the university first XI throughout my spell there, including winning the UAU national title in season 1953-54.
National Service followed from 1956-58 and I was fortunate to be commissioned, earn Paratrooper’s wings and be lucky enough to spend the final seven months in Freetown, Sierra Leone.
I joined the family Textile business (my father having died in 1953), before joining Lantor Ltd, nonwovens manufacturers in 1962.
I married Nancy in 1961 at Greenfield Methodist Church on the morning of April 1st, and it certainly was not a Fool’s Day!
We were cast together in the Saddleworth Musical Society’s production of Ruddigore in 1959 and in so many ways our lives have mirrored the characters we played: Sir Despard and Mad Margaret, evil Baron and mad Miss who turn out to become District Visitors in Act 2 – evil to good!
During the period 1961-66 our first home was Lee Cross, Diggle when our three children, Rachel, Simeon and Abigail, were born, and we were involved in all the shows until 1975 when I took a post with a Lebanese company in Beirut in March, and the family joined me there in August, just in time for the outbreak of the civil war.
Nancy returned with the children in October and my experiences amid the troubles of the region during my two spells there (1975-1979 and 1982-1987) were to prove both dramatic and traumatic.
A chance remark in the choir vestry at St Chad’s by a choir member – “we have been so worried about you” – brought me up sharp and I realised just how unthinking those hard times had actually been for Nancy and the children, and I returned home.
The experiences of man’s inhumanity to man seen in Beirut led to my applying to go on the Local Ordained ministry course, which was just starting in the Diocese.
1972 had seen the family move to Brownhill Lane Uppermill and then in 1985 to Spurn lane, Diggle.
Following encouraging words from the Rev Philip Stevens, both Godfrey Adams and myself entered Ordination training from 1990-1993, and we were ordained Deacon together in 1993.
Since that time the parish of St. Chad has been active in changes in clergy leadership.
Philip Stevens, Carole Marsden, Charles Lawrence, Jonathan Tinker, Willie Nesbitt, Jackie Calow, Howard Sutcliffe and finally a part of Sharon Jones, (a truly most welcome arrival), plus the intervals in each new appointment have meant St. Chad’s has certainly not benefitted from stability!
In spite of all the changes I can say that this final third of my life as an ordained Non-Stipendiary Minister has been a tremendous privilege, without any regrets whatsoever.
It has been an amazing experience to serve as a priest in one’s own village, partaking in the celebrations and grieving along the way.
I give thanks for the people of Saddleworth, of Uppermill and especially of Diggle for all the love, caring and sharing which we have enjoyed over the past twenty-four years together.
Finally, how could I ever thank God adequately for the love and understanding of Nancy, Rachel, Simeon and Abigail throughout our journey together – God bless you all.”