COMMUNITIES COME TOGETHER TO CELEBRATE THE MINISTRY OF REVEREND CANON ROGER BIRD ON HIS RETIREMENT
Two communities near Welshpool are joining forces to celebrate the career of their much-loved parish priest. Reverend Canon Roger Bird is retiring after 22 years as Vicar of Guilsfield and Buttington. Congregations from St Aelhaiarn’s, Guilsfield, and All Saints, Buttington, will attend a joint thanksgiving service for 64 year-old Rev Bird at Guilsfield this Sunday, August 31, at 10.30am, followed by ticket only lunch in the village’s Old School.
Church Treasurer Mr Trevor Trevor said Rev Bird’s inspirational leadership had helped to turn Guilsfield church’s fortunes around. “When Roger arrived our parish was in some difficulties. The congregation was small, allbeit faithful. Change was necessary, but Roger was careful to introduce it with great sensitivity so as to avoid too much upset. The congregation started, and continued to grow year after year. This is a simple but effective measure of success. “Roger’s ability to inspire, lead, guide, and cajole has led us to achieve many things we did not believe possible. He has transformed the church. His final achievement, one which he has cherished for many years, has been the decoration of the interior of the church. “He has inspired his congregation to become leaders of worship rather than passive acceptors. “His wife, Barbara, too has played a valuable role in the parish, being verger, organiser of the churchyard, running the 250 Club and being soother of the Vicar’s frayed nerves.”
Roger was born in Colwyn Bay, North Wales, in 1949 and found he could sing when, as a six year-old, he joined the choir of the town’s St Paul’s Church. It forged an enduring love of sacred music and song. He trained at King’s College, London and St Augustus College, Canterbury before his first job as a parish curate in Prestatyn in 1973. There he met Barbara, who was a member of Christ Church choir. Roger was made Rector of the parishes of Llandysilio, Penrhos, Llandrinio and Criggion in 1978 and became Diocesan Director of Education in 1989, a post he held for 10 years. He took up his most recent post in 1992 and during that time he was also twice Rural Dean for the Pool Deanery.
Roger said he had seen some changes at Guilsfield. “When I joined there was no choir, so I went to the school to recruit some choristers for our first harvest festival, after that there was no stopping us!” he recalls. He is particularly pleased that Guilsfield Church has been refurbished in recent years including a new kitchen and children’s area in the main body of the church, new oak and glass entrance doors and redecoration throughout. The congregation has grown to around 130 regularly on a Sunday and Roger also introduced the annual Christmas Eve carol service, which sees the church packed to capacity.
Roger and Barbara will retire in the community where they have so many friends, to a new home just around the corner from their Guilsfield vicarage. They have sons Philip, David and Stephen, daughter in law Jenny and four grandchildren, and Roger says he is looking forward to spending more time with his family. “I’m certainly looking forward to going to church and being able to sit with them, rather than having me at the front and them at the back!” he said.
He is slowly recovering from a stroke suffered last year and was touched by all the help he received from parishioners, particularly when Barbara broke an arm too. He added: “One of the most rewarding aspects of the last 10 months has been the ability of both parishes to continue without me. I would like to thank all my parishioners for their love and support over the past 22 years.”
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