A behind-the-scenes look at the lives of country vicars. After his ordination, new curate Father Matthew is determined to make an impression in his new parish.
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Have more tea, Vicar? Yeah, go on, then.
Pillars of the community.
Are we high enough yet?
As English as tea and cake and cricket on the village green.
-Nice to see you, to see you...
But times are changing.
Would you like to pray now? Would you find that helpful?
Congregations are ageing and faith is fading.
People in this country do not go to church.
So today's vicars are working hard to stay relevant.
The safeguards that are in place
are not catching people who are in desperate need.
In this series, vicars from Hereford,
the Church of England's most rural diocese,
let us into their life and work.
You are sent from God to titivate the house.
Offering support to those facing eviction.
-Where are you going to move to?
And helping the homeless when all else has failed.
You don't need your tent.
It's all part of a vicar's life.
Hereford diocese covers over 1,600 square miles.
The majority is farmland and rolling countryside.
At its centre is the cathedral city of Hereford...
..where there's a newly ordained curate on patrol.
I'm Matthew, I'm the assistant curate here at All Saints.
Father Matthew Cashmore was ordained two and a half weeks ago...
..and is eager to get to know his parishioners.
-Well, I'm Matthew.
-Lovely to meet you.
Nice to meet you as well. Do you work here often?
He's taken the unusual decision to wear a cassock full-time.
-Nice to meet you.
Do you know All Saints at all? Do you know the church?
The cassock is just this constant pull of "This is service".
HE PLAYS PAN FLUTES
It's being visible and approachable, people know that you're there
and that they can come to you for support and pray,
but also know that they can come to the church for mass at ten past 12,
so wandering round the city centre is something I do a lot.
At his ordination ceremony,
Matthew swore an oath to help those on the margins of society.
He's heard about a woman
who's camping on a busy roundabout in his city centre parish.
Hello. I've brought you coffee.
Oh, right, oh thank you.
-Hello, Matthew. Pleased to meet you.
Samantha has been homeless for seven months,
moving between different locations in Hereford.
It must have been three weeks ago, something like that?
-What, since I've been on here?
-Do you have what you need on here?
-No, I don't.
No, no, no.
As you can see, I look a mess.
There we are.
By camping in such a public place,
Samantha has acquired a certain notoriety.
"You are hereby summoned to appear before the magistrate court..."
Now she's been served with an eviction notice from the roundabout
and has been summoned to court.
I'll get there for about ten o'clock,
cos I know what they're like.
-Do you want me to meet you there?
-Yeah, you could do.
All she gets as she walks around town is negativity
and people questioning her motives.
So if I can hold her hand and offer her something different,
that's what I'm going to do.
I can be a friend. That's, like, the most important thing,
and it's everything and it's nothing.
I'll try and sort you out a phone today so you can,
you've at least got a way that you can be contacted.
-Would you like to pray now? Would you find that helpful?
No, because if I ever have done,
I tend to do it on my own spontaneously.
That's good. Come to church tomorrow.
9:30am, All Saints. Come to Mass, I'm preaching.
-Look after yourself now, all right? Hug?
I think it highlights how close all of us are to just...
..just dropping off the edge, and how easy it is to drop off the edge.
But regardless of whether or not she comes to church, I'm there for her,
she's in my parish and I will care for her.
Homelessness is not only an issue in the city.
Herefordshire has over 2,500 farms.
Hundreds of them fall in the Abbeydore deanery,
an area of 34 parishes overseen by Rural Dean Nicholas Lowton.
There have been years when it's been really touch and go for a lot of
farmers around here.
Farmers tend in a very proper sense to be quite proud people.
They're not always going to be the first people to ask for help.
In the south of the deanery,
Steve Clayton and his partner Joyce have kept sheep and cattle on their
council-owned farm for 15 years.
But now the council is having to sell 43 farms
to raise funds for vital services.
Steve and Joyce's tenancy has been brought to an end.
It's very sad, really, very sad.
And it'll be, well, you wonder, is it worth getting up?
But there we are.
We've had a good time, so...
And we're happy with what we've produced,
so that's the main thing, I suppose.
He's putting a brave face on,
but underneath he's feeling pretty sick and sad.
We just don't know what the next step's going to be.
The farm has been given a guide price of £1.2 million.
Too much for Steve and Joyce.
They've not been able to find another farm to move to,
so will have to give up their livelihood and find a new home.
Nicholas is on his way to offer support.
Farmers aren't good at stopping the work that they're doing.
The word retirement, for instance,
is not really part of their vocabulary.
And so to have that forced upon them,
under circumstances not of their own choosing,
is not always helpful, putting it mildly.
Well, I never had you down as a tractor washer.
Well, it's nice to keep them clean and tidy.
Are you going to have a cup of tea, Nicholas?
That would be lovely.
Right, and a bit of cake?
-Have you been baking all morning?
-Oh, yes, all week!
Steve and Joyce are in limbo.
They don't yet know their leaving date,
or how much compensation they'll receive from the council.
How are we on the moving front?
-Where are you going to move to?
-Don't know. Don't know.
And you've got no idea when they're going to say,
"Right, you need to be out?"
No, we haven't heard a single thing.
-It is outrageous.
We're on best china, meeting a vicar.
-Bone china, I hope.
-Bone china, Vicar.
You've brought a nice morning with you.
It's fabulous, it's really, really, really fabulous. It's good.
-It's good, and the light up here is so marvellous.
It'll be a sad day when we go from here, mind.
-It'll be horrible.
It will be, but things change, don't they?
If you're in a place like this,
it's very easy for pressure to build up when you're on your own
and every now and then you do need to feel
there's somebody to whom you can simply shout.
And part of my job is to be shouted at.
I'll see you Sunday, Vicar.
-But I'm not saying which Sunday.
Thank you, Vicar!
Samantha has disappeared from the roundabout overnight.
Matthew gave her a mobile phone the day before.
Hi, Samantha, this is just a call to see if you're OK.
Hopefully, you're in somewhere and that's OK,
but I shall leave it at that.
If you need anything, give me a call. Bye, now.
OK, I'm encouraged by that, because it rang.
So hopefully she's tucked up in bed somewhere warm and safe.
Matthew's about to deliver his first ever sermon.
Meeting Samantha has given him inspiration.
Today's sermon doesn't end on a fluffy high note.
It's really tough to tell,
but sometimes it's important to say things that need saying.
It's a treat, really, to have,
for my first sermon in this church,
one of Jesus's perhaps more straightforward parables.
Themes of judgment, the devil, and of judging each other.
Let's take a real example -
the lady currently camping on the roundabout
not a stone's throw from this pulpit.
When we gossip, when we share that nasty comment,
when we take pleasure in sowing bad seeds,
we are doing the devil's work.
I'll be damned if I'll do his work for him.
Now, we've all done it.
I was guilty of it in college,
and I remain guilty of passing judgment.
The important thing is to remember, as St Augustine said,
just because you were bad yesterday,
just because you were in error yesterday,
doesn't mean that you have to be in error today.
In the Shropshire town of Much Wenlock,
after a huge fundraising effort,
the congregation of Holy Trinity Church
has a newly restored lead roof.
Vicar Matthew Stafford has invited the Bishop of Hereford to bless it
in a special ceremony.
You know what it can be like - "Oh, the gaffer's coming."
And people can go one of two ways.
Either they become a gibbering wreck
or it's "Yes, Bishop, no, Bishop, three bags full, Bishop."
All that, see, and I can't be doing with any of that, so, you know,
"I'm Matthew, this is me, welcome to Much Wenlock."
-And as the song goes, we are going straight down the middle. Yes?
-You're happy with what you're doing?
I'll create the impression that I know what I'm doing(!)
Bishop knows what he's doing.
-I'm affectionately known as the Reverend Wing-It.
ORGAN PLAYS AND CHOIR SINGS
Keen to get the Bishop as close to the roof as possible
for the blessing, Matthew was struck by an idea.
The cherry picker actually arrived yesterday, and when I looked at it,
I thought, "Thank God,"
because there was only room for one passenger and the operator.
And, you know, Bishop's far more important than me,
so, erm, he can have all the glory today.
Unfortunately, the Bishop is not keen on heights.
Oh, my goodness.
High enough yet?
-Oh, my goodness me.
Yeah, they're safe as houses.
I'm sure they're safe, it's just that I hate looking down.
Almighty God, whose Son, Jesus Christ,
is the chief cornerstone,
bless this roof
and all who are found beneath it.
Give shelter from storms of wind and rain
and storms of heart and soul.
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Three cheers for the Bishop of Hereford!
Hip, hip, hooray! Hip, hip, hooray! Hip, hip, hooray!
I do beg for your forgiveness
for not making the sign of the cross when I was up there,
but I was going to cling on for all I was worth.
There we are.
It's been a really good day, and to be fair on the Bishop of Hereford,
he's always a very good sport.
Well, it was better than I feared, but it's over now, so with hindsight
it was fine, and well done to everyone in Much Wenlock.
Father Matthew has managed to track down Samantha
after she was evicted from the roundabout.
Since then, he's been trying to find her somewhere to live.
We are currently unable to take your call...
Ever the 21st-century cleric, he has put the word out on Twitter,
and raised funds for short-term accommodation.
It became apparent that I wasn't going to get any access
to emergency funding to keep Samantha off the streets.
And in the end, we've raised £275,
which has meant we've been able to keep Samantha in a B&B
for just over a week while we try and figure everything else out.
Oh, hello, my name is Father Matthew.
I'm the assistant curate in the West Hereford team...
Matthew has also found someone from the church
who has agreed to be Samantha's rent guarantor for six months.
Now he needs a landlord willing to take her.
But if you have anything else that kind of falls within that spectrum,
or landlord that you think would be willing to help,
I'd be ever so grateful if you could give me a call back, please.
People are frightened of engaging with someone who has been homeless.
It is really frustrating.
I mean, there's 25 places that would be brilliant
just on this one website.
All they need to do to help her is accept her as a tenant.
The money is all there.
Oh, good afternoon. It's Father Matthew here
from the West Hereford team again.
Just following up, really...
Samantha's slip into homelessness was gradual.
Following a relationship breakdown, she was evicted from various homes
during a chaotic period in her life.
The names I've been called, it's been hideous,
and it shouldn't be like that.
Just cos you don't live in bricks and mortar
doesn't necessarily mean it is a bad thing.
But why are people so quick to judge?
Samantha is a mother, but in recent years
she's had limited contact with her children.
That's the hardest part, you know,
you look back on things that you've done, and...
..you know, just good times, and that's what keeps you going.
I just miss them.
More than anything else in the world.
Samantha's due in court again today.
After a string of minor public order offences,
the council and police now want to ban her from the City of Hereford.
I think there's probably good uses for banning orders,
I just don't think this is one.
But we'll see how it goes.
So, whatever happens this morning, there's a lot of positive.
I think yesterday, my coping strategies
were literally going out of the window.
Just think about the next steps now, what's in front of you now.
You have got this today, who knows what the week after leads,
but this whole thing is really about little steps.
Cos you're like me, ten league boots or nothing at all.
At the end of the day, they can't impose this. I'm going to ask...
Just don't get worked up about it now, just see how it flows.
I know it's hard to put trust in people, I know it is.
Samantha's case is adjourned to a later date.
-It's good news today.
-It is, yeah.
That's really, really good news.
In south-west Herefordshire,
farmers Steve and Joyce are also having to face up
to losing their home and livelihood.
We don't know where we're going yet
because we haven't found anywhere to go.
We've had offers of places to stay with a bed,
but it's not the same as your own,
so we really don't know at the moment.
They've managed to pull together enough funds for a deposit,
but have had no success securing a house.
We had our heart set on an ex-council house
that had been on the market for three years.
We made an offer.
Somebody offered the full price, so we lost it.
It's a London person that's bought it, for a holiday cottage.
So they won't be partaking in the school...
..or the church.
We had to start looking again, then.
Back a touch.
Steve's been forced to send his cattle to market to raise the money
needed for a new home.
It'll be the end of a bloodline he's been breeding for 30 years.
Bit of whiskey, medicinal, to calm the nerves.
When things go wrong, it's upsetting, isn't it?
But it might turn out to be for the best.
It's 7pm in Hereford, and Matthew's due home for supper.
Instead, he's helping Samantha collect some of her belongings
stored at the church hall.
Here we are.
Here we go.
Her stay at the B&B has been extended.
She's now keen to get back into work,
buying and selling vintage collectables.
I'll give you 50p for it.
No, I want...
If I don't keep it for myself, I'll give it to you, OK?
These are pretty good.
Catherine's making me sausage casserole for when I get in.
That is mad, I could have sworn Winston Churchill was on that one.
-No rush, obviously, but...
-It's all right, no, it's fine.
-..if you could hurry up.
-Yeah, not a problem.
I don't know whether to take that with me or not.
-What is it?
-My tent, one of them.
No, you don't need your tent.
If you're a bloody idiot and get thrown out of where you are now...
But I won't do.
-As you know.
-Then don't worry about your tent.
Right, Samantha, let's go.
Helping Samantha is not just mission for Matthew.
He too once experienced homelessness.
When I was 19, stuff went all a little bit weird and wrong.
One person held their hand out to me and, erm...
..it was a bed for me and there was somewhere safe for me.
And I wouldn't be where I am now if that person hadn't done that for me.
That same person made it a deal of helping me, he said,
"I'll do this for you and you've got to do it for others."
And so a big part of this is about that, I think.
Right, here we go.
Further north in Shropshire...
..Much Wenlock's vicarage is getting spruced up,
and for a change, the offer of more tea comes FROM the vicar.
I know, being in a vicarage, you should really have a teapot,
and I've got plenty of teapots, but, you know,
you can't be squeezing a bag.
Please may I see your working at height paperwork?
Obviously in any good working relationship,
there's the one that's very good at the gift of the gab
and there's the one that does the work
and Seb has worked exceedingly hard these last few weeks
on our house, bless him.
-Thank you. Look at that.
-Look at that.
"Fat and sexy".
You are sent from God to titivate the house.
In a quiet corner of the garden,
Matthew has a bolthole away from the building work.
It means a lot, this, cos it's just nice to retreat to.
We read in here, probably drink too much gin in here.
The shed also once provided shelter for a young homeless man.
Patrick lived in my old parish.
He was sadly evicted from his property
and I'll never forget it, cos he came to my door
with a tent, a packet of out-of-date sandwiches and a duvet.
So for a period of time, Patrick resided in this very shed
and I remember pleading with the system.
I said, "If we don't get to grips with this,
"this lad's going to be dead by Christmas,"
and there are days when I say, "I wish I'd never said it,"
because what happened on Christmas Eve of all days,
he was found on an industrial estate in Telford
and after I took the funeral,
I was adamant that we would have a picture of Patrick
up in the shed to ever remember him by.
Every community has its issues,
every community has those people that have the outdoor face,
the indoor face,
and I believe it's the duty of the church
to respond appropriately wherever they can
to meet people's needs spiritually, emotionally,
physically, whatever, we have a duty of care to one another.
# Will you use the faith you've found
# To reshape the world around
# Through my sight and touch and sound... #
Near the Welsh border,
Nicholas is holding a service for the deanery at Clywedog Church.
In the congregation are Steve and Joyce.
Joyce has been coming here for ever, which is lovely.
Steve, as he himself would admit, is, shall we say,
not quite so regular,
but that doesn't matter.
And the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
uphold you and all those who you love this day and for ever more.
-Thank you, Vicar.
-A joy to see you.
And a pleasure to see you, and such a lovely service.
The future is looking a little brighter for Steve and Joyce.
They've had an offer accepted on a house
and Steve has found some agricultural work.
-Lovely to see you.
-Thank you, Vicar.
-Oh, you're lovely and warm.
-I know, it's a warm church.
Anyway, as long as you're happy, that's OK.
As long as if you're not happy, you let me know.
-Yes, I will.
-And if he's got anything to do with it,
you let me know quickly.
-Yeah, and what'll you do then?
-I'll deal with it.
You'll deal with it!
Yeah, they seemed in very, very, very good spirit,
which is lovely, because what they have been subjected to, um...
..has been, no, not easy.
And they seem in very, very, very good humour about it,
which is excellent.
Yeah, we're good. We're getting there quietly.
I think we feel better after being down here this morning, actually.
Well, yeah, that's right, yeah.
-Yes. Lifted our spirits a bit.
-Nicholas is so lovely.
Lot number 3, for the assorted miscellaneous metalware,
the vesture and cigarette case etc.
I've got 10 with me. 11?
In Hereford, Samantha's at an auction
of collectables and antiques.
Are you all done at £11?
Looking for a bargain to make a profit on,
something which is quirky,
different and is going to make me some money this week,
so hopefully we will find something
amongst other people's unwanted stuff.
Ceiling light fitting there, what's your starting?
£5 on the ceiling light fitting.
£5? Any interest at 5?
The City of Hereford ban has finally been rejected
and Samantha has found some stability.
I'm currently renting a room in Leominster which, you know,
is a bit better and organised than what I was,
and hopefully by the end of next year
I'll be in a much more better position
than what I already am now as well,
so things are happy days.
Lot 207, two boxes of brass and copper items.
When I didn't have nowhere to go,
I didn't think that it was going to be the church that initiated help
and, really, shouldn't have been, but they did,
and I was extremely grateful,
you know, because being a Christian
isn't all about the religion side of things.
It's about doing good things for other people
and that's what I loved about Matthew
because he wants to as a person,
not because it's a religious point of view,
and that's the way it should be.
8, looking for 9. We're all done at £8.
Samantha spots someone she can help out.
They make use out of the things that they find, and so do I.
He needs a new home. He looked lost.
I couldn't leave him here on his own, so he's coming with me.
That's the thing about homelessness.
You want to be normal in standing there and saying,
"We can do something different, it doesn't have to be like this.
"Let's try and put behind us the things that have gone wrong in the past."
That's God's love in the world right there.
That's what I'm here to do.
Next time, Braunton celebrates harvest.
Just going to make sure they won't fall on the vicar!
Nicholas fires up a wedding crowd.
-ALL: We will.
And Matthew's mission to help takes him across the sea to Calais.
Small acts of good change the world.
Filled with fire in his belly after his ordination, new curate Father Matthew is determined to make an impression in his new parish. Dressed in his new cassock - which he plans to wear at all times - he hits the streets, introducing himself to the people of All Saints. He has noticed some tents in the middle of a roundabout and wants to find out more. He discovers a homeless young woman and resolves to help her find a roof over her head.
In the Black Mountains, Nicholas is there to support others who are struggling in these tough times, as farmer Steve and his wife Joyce have no choice but to sell their cattle and vacate their farm.
Rev Matthew Stafford recalls helping a troubled young man who once slept in his shed, which remains in his garden as a tribute to him after he sadly died. But his most pressing issue right now is a visit from the Bishop to bless his new church roof. How will Bishop Richard feel about Matthew's plan to send him up in a cherry picker?