Alconbury Weald welcomes Pioneer Priest


Alconbury Weald welcomed its latest resident to the growing community last night (Wednesday 18 April) : its first vicar.

Reverend Robert Paddison was licensed to serve the community as a Church of England Pioneer Minister in a ceremony held at the Ermine Street Church Academy and conducted by the Bishop of Huntingdon, the Right Reverend David Thomson. The Service is an important milestone in the development of the new community, and a formal legal process, which gives Rob – as both a public servant, and in his spiritual role – the authority to work with new residents and surrounding communities. Speaking during the Ceremony, the Bishop said:

“Alconbury Weald is an exciting and dynamic new community and it is very important that we are here at the start of the process. The Church wants to play an active role in building strong spiritual foundations for the new community, ensuring it is not just a place to live and to grow, but to live well and grow well. We have been working with the developers Urban&Civic and know there is a real vision for not just new homes here but a real, robust, healthy and happy community.”

The role of Pioneer Minister is an important one for the Diocese of Ely which has invested significantly in new communities across Cambridgeshire. Alongside the traditional spiritual and pastoral role of a priest, the role forms part of the early community development work to help residents meet each other, set down roots and evolve the identity of the new community. Rob will also support the developers, in working with the community and other faiths to help design the future spiritual space coming forward as part of the next phase of development.

Revd Paddison and his wife Jenny moved into Alconbury Weald over the Easter holidays, and have two children who have just started at the School – which is just a short walk from their new home. The new community role is a change from his previous role covering 7 villages in Leicestershire, where he was Vicar of the parishes of Barrow upon Soar with Walton-le-Wolds, Wymeswold and Prestwold with Hoton. A number of people from Rob’s former churches were present at the ceremony, to wish him well in his future role. Rob, who has family links to Cambridgeshire, said:

“The licensing ceremony is a very humbling event and underlines that my core role is to serve the new community. Alconbury Weald does not have a Church at this stage of the development, and indeed may never have a traditional church building, yet part of my role is to ensure we establish a Church community, with the focus very much on people. My role is to walk alongside the new residents, support them through not just the highs of moving into a new home, but the lows that life can sometimes include along the way.  I look forward to listening and responding to others' needs, as well as joining in and taking part in community life here. The role will also involve working in partnership with the school, the developers, the housebuilders and other local organisations to ensure that the community has a strong spiritual foundation to help the people of Alconbury Weald flourish.”

The Diocese already has a presence on site, with its Educational Multi-Academy Trust running Ermine Street Church Academy, and it is anticipated that the school will be used as part of the early faith space on the development, to join the already varied community events and space it supports.  Adrian Shepherd, the School’s headteacher added:

“The community spirit that exists on Alconbury Weald is already a unique feature of the place; there is an energy and enthusiasm from parents, Urban & Civic and the school that drives the development, and family life within it, forward. This makes such an important difference to the new children and families that we regularly welcome. I am very excited that Rob has now joined the Alconbury Weald community. He will bring much to the school and Alconbury Weald. For us, Collective Worship, pastoral growth and reflection will all benefit from his presence.”

Rebecca Britton, from site owners and developers said:

“We know that building communities and ensuring they flourish requires a wide range of elements: from the schools and homes, to green space, community facilities and transport links. But the people are always the most crucial part of this. Our Communities team will be working closely with Rob to continue the work we have started with new residents: ensuring they have a range of support, information and opportunity to meet and really set down roots here.”