Valley move gives village a new vicar

Canon James Allison at the vicarage of St John the Baptist Church, Coley.

Canon James Allison at the vicarage of St John the Baptist Church, Coley.

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I consider myself a church cheerleader, says the Rev James Allison, the new vicar of Coley.

“I want to work with other churches in the area and particularly with young people.”

Canon James Allison at St John the Baptist Church, Coley.

Canon James Allison at St John the Baptist Church, Coley.

A familiar face in the Wakefield diocese for many years, Canon Allison took up his new post at St John’s Church, Coley, just before Christmas - and was plunged straight into a busy round of services. “I was thrown in at the deep end but it was a great way of getting to know people very quickly and I was made to feel very welcome,” he said.

Canon Allison came to Coley from the Upper Calder Valley where he was at St Michael’s Church, Mytholmroyd, and St John’s Church, Cragg Vale, for 14 years. He was also Mayor of Hebden Royd in 2004 and 2005 and a long-serving parish councillor. His wife, Catherine, is a teacher at Beech Hill School, Halifax. “Coley is a very beautiful place, it’s like an island surrounded by countryside. People come to the church from a wide surrounding area.”

Though the distinctive church building is 200 years old, there has been a place of worship on the site for 500 years - and the church is planning to mark the special anniversary later this year.

The Christmas festivities came as something as a relief after the controversy of the Church of England general synod in December where moves to allow women bishops failed. “I am totally in favour of women bishops,” said Canon Allison, a member of the general synod. “So it was disappointing that the vote did not succeed.

New vicar at St John the Baptist Church, Coley.'From the left, canon David Burrows, canon James Allison, new vicar at St John the Baptist Church, Coley, Bishop of Pontefract the right reverend Tony Robinson and archdeacon Anne Dawtry.

New vicar at St John the Baptist Church, Coley.'From the left, canon David Burrows, canon James Allison, new vicar at St John the Baptist Church, Coley, Bishop of Pontefract the right reverend Tony Robinson and archdeacon Anne Dawtry.

“This is an issue the Church of England is struggling with at the moment and it is unsettling but I feel sure that it will be reconsidered and that ultimately it will succeed.”

St John’s has been without its own minister for almost a year following the departure of the Rev Mark Madeley for a new post in the west country.

Churchwarden Lesley Bigham said: “James has come to us with a wealth of experience, a strong desire to nurture and to help us grow and a gift for reaching out to the wider community.”

The church has an active playgroup, a Supporting Friends group for the recently bereaved and a ‘cuppa and a chat’ group which meets regularly. An Alpha course will start at the end of the month.

“I used to run a youth group in Mytholmroyd at Calder High School and I am very keen to start a similar one in Coley. It is an area I aminterested in,” said Canon Allison, who is a governor at Hipperholme Grammar School.

Canon Allison studied biology at Manchester University and did voluntary work in Moss Side. “I was drawn to the church as a teenager though I tried to resist. In the end, though, I feel it was my vocation.” In the end, perhaps, it will be the family ‘business’. Canon Allison’s father was ordained as a vicar at the age of 70 and his eldest son Ben is also interested in becoming a vicar. He also has a daughter Rebecca, a second son Joseph and a two-year-old grandson Amos. After 14 years in Mytholmroyd and Cragg Vale, Canon Allsion is looking forward to making his mark at Coley Church. “I won’t be making too many changes too quickly though we are considering a name change at St John’s. We are thinking about calling it the Church on the Hill, since that’s what most people round here know it as!”