Ian steps down from a leading role

IAN Byfield's ability to express himself vocally and through the written word has been an essential tool of his trade.

With a career in newspapers and public relations Ian has spent his working life writing articles on a variety of subjects. But a large part of his life has also been devoted to the church and his love of the theatre and the arts.

And by combining all his talents he has successfully helped 'spread the word' to members of St John's Church, Rastrick, and in the surrounding community.

This weekend will be an emotional time for Ian - and the members of St John's - when he takes part in his final service at the church on Sunday after a link that goes back 25 years. For a large part of that time he has been a lay reader at the church and a member of the successful music group where he plays guitar.

A former editor of the Brighouse Echo from 1979 to 1982, it was his appointment at the paperthat led to Ian's involvement with St John's.

"I felt it was important as editor of a local newspaper to live in the area," said Ian.

He and his wife Sally moved to live in the Longroyde area of Rastrick and stayed there until a few months ago when they moved to Halifax.

When a member of St John's called at the 'Echo' office to enquire if a story appealing for men to join the pantomime cast could be run in the paper, Ian was quick to promise it wouldn't be a problem. And because of his interest in the theatre - for many years he was a member of the Saltaire Youth Theatre - he put himself forward.

"I felt having promised we would help find some men for the panto it was the least I could do," said Ian.

Before he knew it he was playing the part of the baddy Abanazer in 'Aladdin' and he was so convincing he not only frightened youngsters in the audience he had younger members of the cast trembling in their boots back stage.

"I enjoyed taking part and did another couple of roles after that," said Ian.

Through the pantomime society he became more involved with the church and since 1983 has been a member of the Parochial Church Council.

In 1985 he took the decision to train as a lay reader and completed a three year course which involved Saturday lectures and weekday tutorials plus a lot of research and writing essays.

"I combined the training with my work and family commitments but I knew it was something I wanted to do," said Ian, who was licensed in 1988.

During his time at St John's he has worked alongside fellow lay reader Alan Hoggard and four different vicars - Michael Storey, David Miller, Simon Tyndall and Jonathan Broadhurst.

"There have been three interregnums and because of Jonathan's recent illness there has been more demand on the duties we carry out," said Ian. "Before Jonathan went off ill he had set some agendas in place and we have worked on these and they have brought fruition."

His duties have also involved taking communion out into the community and leading funeral services. "I have found this very fulfilling and humbling," he said.

Ian, who is 55 and works as a self employed communications consultant, has also been able to put his theatrical talents to good use when leading services at St John's. Church warden Muriel Coop, writing in the January parish magazine, said Ian had given both his time and talents to St John's.

"Not just making us laugh - which his sermons have from time to time - but leading us forward as Christians, signposting the way ahead with enthusiasm and a belief in our efforts to grow and serve with love and compassion. I know we still have far to go but I hope Ian will take with him the assurance that his untiring work has been fruitful in so many ways," she said.

And church member Reg Redfearn said his sermons, which often began with a joke but contained a well-constructed message, would be missed.

But Ian insisted that working at St John's had been an honour. He said the enthusiasm of church members and the wonderful family atmosphere meant that he would certainly miss the church and the people.

He made the decision to step down from his role at the church when the family moved to Halifax.

"I didn't feel it was right living away from the Rastrick community," he said. "I will become involved with another church but I'm not sure which yet."

Despite the move Ian is still maintaining his link with Waring Green Players in Brighouse for the time being.

He is the group's vice-chairman and will be appearing in the Players' next production. "Beyond that I'm not sure yet," he said.