Long-serving Chippenham vicar to bow out on Christmas Day

This Is Wiltshire: The Rev Simon Tatton-Brown with his dog Pippa The Rev Simon Tatton-Brown with his dog Pippa

The Bishop of Bristol has said Reverend Simon Tatton-Brown’s ‘wholehearted and generous’ contribution to the Church and the community will be greatly missed after his retirement tomorrow on Christmas Day.

The Rev Tatton-Brown has led St Andrew’s parish in Chippenham for 13 years, and was made an honorary canon in recognition of his long and dedicated service to the diocese of Bristol.

Mr Tatton-Brown, 65, began to explore religion in depth after his mum, who was from Marlborough, died when he was 15.

“When you’re a teen you ask some questions,” he said. “I wonder whether that influenced me. I read theology at uni but I was too immature at 20 to be a priest.”

He trained as a social worker and went on to become a probation officer.

He said: “I always work on the assumption that however bad someone seemed to be, there was always something good in that person, and the work was to find that good so the good drives out the bad. Some you win and some you don’t.”

He was part of the team that helped to set up community service and supervised some of the first cases, and said it was dreadful to see the probation service privatised.

He said: “They come out and within a few weeks they’re back in. And that is a great stain on our nation. People are paying the price because their lives are blighted and community is paying the price with crime.”

He was ordained in 1978 and served in parishes in the Manchester area before coming to Chippenham in 2000.

He said his job as a vicar has been ‘both a privilege and a responsibility’.

He said: “You don’t want people to have a lousy wedding. When you’re planning a service with a couple you’re admitted into areas of family life that would normally be personal and it is a great privilege.”

He will retire to Bath with his dog Pippa, returning as a visitor on January 12.

Rt Rev Mike Hill, Bishop of Bristol said: “Simon is a deeply Christian man who has wholeheartedly given himself to the task in hand. As parish priest, honorary Canon of Bristol Cathedral and chair of the Diocesan Liturgy and Worship Committee, he has offered his gifts generously and with little attention to the cost.

“He has a very fine mind, engaging with questions and issues openly and with integrity. We will miss his contribution to the life of the Church and community.”

Meanwhile, Mr Tatton-Brown says he is leaving Doorway in good hands as he retires as its chairman.

He came to the homeless charity’s rescue when it was in danger of closing four years ago after losing its only support worker.

Lisa Lewis, chief executive of Doorway, said she would be forever grateful. “Without Simon’s sheer determination, Doorway would not be in existence today,” she said.

Fortuitously she was seated next to the vicar at a Rotary breakfast club in 2009. She said: “It all came pouring out. Needless to say Simon turned around to me and simply stated he wasn’t having any of this and he would sort it out.”

He worked quickly to set up a new board of trustees and complete the paperwork needed to keep the group running.

For him, the work has been incredibly satisfying. He said. “What Doorway now offers – well, there is no comparison.”

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