When the Rev Matthew Pollard leaves Rastrick for new pastures this week, it won’t be the first time that he has said farewell to the congregations of the churches of St John’s and St Matthew’s.
The two churches have a long association for Matthew and his wife Adriane. Before he became a curate in 2001, the family worshipped regularly at St John’s and the couple were married at St Matthew’s in 1995.
Leaving will be a big wrench but, as he packs up his boxes of books and belongings at Rastrick Vicarage, Matthew is saying goodbye to West Yorkshire and looking forward to a new life on Yorkshire’s east coast where he has been appointed Rector of the historic Bridlington Priory.
St Matthew’s Church in Rastrick is planning to celebrate its 650th anniversary in September - but the church where Matthew is heading is even older, marking its 900th birthday this year.
“I’m sorry to be missing the celebrations at St Matthew’s but it’s a great honour to be joining Bridlington Priory as it comes to the end of its 900th anniversary. Last week I went up to Bridlington for a special service which was attended by Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall,” said Matthew.
“It’s a very ancient church that was, at one time, second only to Fountains Abbey in importance in Yorkshire. It was once part of an Augustinian priory but now just the church is left. It is a grade one listed building and it’s almost like a cathedral inside. You can’t help but be aware of the history when you walk through the doors.”
The move comes at an important time for Matthew, Adriane and their three children. Eldest son Nick is about to enrol at Askham Bryan College near York, 12-year-old Grace will move to Driffield School and middle son Tom is staying in Rastrick and living with Adriane’s mum until he has finished his GCSEs.
“It will be a wrench for all of us to leave Rastrick. I’m leaving the parish feeling that it is good shape and that I’m leaving it in good hands but all of us will be sad to say goodbye,” said Matthew.
Matthew was a solicitor until, at the age of 34 and with a young family, he decided to follow his calling and join the church. He gave up his job with a legal firm in Halifax to train for ordination at St John’s College in Nottingham in 2001.
Two years later he was appointed curate of Huddersfield and chaplain of Huddersfield University before returning to Rastrick as vicar.
A keen choral singer, tenor Matthew has been an enthusiastic member of Huddersfield Singers for more than 20 years. “I love singing and I will definitely be looking for a new choir in east Yorkshire to join,” he said.
Though he feels the time is right to make the move and accept a new challenge, Matthew will miss the ‘vibrant community’ of St John’s and St Matthew’s.
He has forged links with infants, junior and high schools in Rastrick, with the RAF Association, with the Nyakiswa parish in Mara, Tanzania, and with the wide Rastrick community. Recently £300 was raised for mosquito nets in Nyakiswa with a ring of pennies held by Rastrick cubs and scouts.
“I’ve seen support for the Festival of Remembrance in November grow. The annual remembrance service is very well-attended and supported by the uniformed organisations which, I’m glad to say, includes young members of the guide and scout groups.
“A whole new generation seems to be coming through which recognises the importance of remembrance.”
The annual pantomimes at the two churches are going from strength to strength and Matthew has also been involved in the introduction of a pets’ service and hugely-successful beer festival at St John’s.
“It’s been a huge privilege to be involved in the life of the two parishes, to be involved with people when they marry, have their children baptised but also at a time of bereavement. To make that journey with families as they make those rites of passage has been an absolute privilege.”
But it seems that parishioners in Rastrick aren’t quite ready to say goodbye to Matthew just yet - a coachload of worshippers will be travelling to Bridlington on September 10 to see his institution service conducted by the Bishop of Hull.