The Rolling Rev
By the Revd. Simon Lockett
The Wye Dore parishes of Madley, Peterchurch, Vowchurch, Tyberton and Turnastone are in a rural area and as the Incumbent of these Parishes something that concerns me are the reports from people on the ground that they no longer see the Vicar in their villages and communities. In my previous Parishes in Oxfordshire I felt that, like the libraries and other service providers, the church ought to have a mobile office. As a result we raised enough money to purchase a 1970s VW Camper Van and named it the "Rolling Rev". The van was then passed on for use in my current parishes. It has now been sold and in its place we have a yurt.
The role of the van was to make the clergy more accessible and to raise the profile of the churches' pastoral care. It did this by parking up in appropriate places and allowing the vicar to be visibly seen to be looking out for people in the villages and housing estates where he or she did not live. I have numerous stories of how this project reached people in a way that very little else could. One in particular, was of the three Oxfordshire farmers who, due to the closure of many meeting places in their locality and the fact that the markets closest to them had closed, met with me over a cuppa in the van and swapped news. More generally, others knew that I would be in a certain place at a certain time and would come to tell me if someone needed visiting. All in all it was a means to an end of keeping an ear to the ground.
With more scattered communities and fewer village greens the project took a different incarnation in Herefordshire. Instead of briefly visiting a number of villages I now camp for a week in two of our parishes. This was a huge success that culminated at the end of the week in a BBQ which attracted church goers and non church goers alike. The media took a great interest. I had to give a number of local and national radio station interviews and the "Rolling Rev" made an appearance on Midlands Today after the 6pm news. We also used the van to help transport some of the young people in our youth group and for taking them to a summer arts festival.
In 2011 the Rolling Rev was sold. It became just too expensive to run. With the proceeds a Yurt was bought and I now camp in the villages using either this or a caravan. It's much more sustainable, warmer and a bigger space for people to gather in.