WHEN Aaron Moffat-Jackman talks about tending to his flock, he doesn’t always mean his Saddleworth parishioners.
However, with their gaggle of geese, herd of sheep, a cockerel and his harem of hens plus a border collie and pet cat, Aaron and his family are definitely enjoying the Good Life since moving to Dobcross.
It is a life for the new assistant curate far removed from what he previously experienced before his ordination at Manchester Cathedral on July 2.
He worked with ex offenders in Strangeways and HMP Forest Bank, Salford, in a Moss Side library, spent time among orphans in Albania and was an academic mentor to disruptive pupils at an inner city Manchester school.
“Most of my training has been with people who don’t fit in to society or who society has given up on: ex offenders,” said Aaron, 34, the son of a Jamaican immigrant, raised in Old Trafford.
“I am a city boy. I am used to looking at the grey and to my shame I didn’t know about the greenery and the beauty.
“Religious Education was my favourite subject at school. Kids called me ‘Pastor Aaron’ and took the mick.
“But I am not a cradle Anglican. I had 18 years with the Pentecostals, playing drums and playing music.
“However, I have always been someone who has questioned things and with the Anglican Church I have felt I have been able to question and engage as well.”
But it was a less philosophical moment that pushed him towards a full-time, religious career.
“I was doing a chaplaincy and I met a group of guys in prison. I introduced myself as ‘I am Aaron, as Aaron, High Priest in the Bible.
“One of them asked: ‘Are you a priest, mate? I said ‘no, it’s just the name Aaron.
“He looked me in the eye and said “One day you will be. I am generally sceptical about those things but I thought maybe I need to listen to something here.”
If Saddleworth is breaking new ground for Aaron, contrastingly, with his nose stud, ear ring, love of hip hop and enjoyment of real ale, the 34-year-old former Manchester United ticket gate man isn’t the spiritual figure many church goers are used to seeing.
“It is very different to the locations I have worked in before,” he agrees. “The deprivation and poverty doesn’t exist in Saddleworth on the surface.
“But I believe there is a lot of loneliness, neglect and hidden issues in Saddleworth so there is still a job for people like myself to go and seek out and help.
“As a curate, I feel strongly I need to be somewhere where the person training me is good and who knows what they are doing.
“I like to get the balance of a place that is good for me to use my gifts but it is also some where where, as a community, I will get the support I need.
“Saddleworth has given me and my family the space to grow and develop. The hospitality and welcome from people has been lovely.”
Aaron, married to Gemma and dad to Hope and Abraham, lives at Dobcross vicarage but his work takes him across the whole of Saddleworth. He is mentored by rector, Reverend Canon Sharon Jones.
“I spend most of my time in Lydgate and Uppermill but generally I am placed where there is need,” he said.
“And because I am still learning I am still shadowing Sharon until I can spread my wings.
“But I am here for a minimum of three years after which time I will probably need to apply to be incumbent somewhere else.
For the moment Aaron is relishing his Moors calling.
“Saddleworth can be a bit of a bubble because it is so beautiful,” he said. “May be what I can bring is a reminder that everything isn’t okay every where.”