WELL travelled Brian Grist is the new part-time minister at Stalybridge Congregational Church.
Rev Grist, who has 48 years in the ministry, describes himself as “more of a fisher of men rather than being keeper of the aquarian”.
He says his strength is building up churches and he derives great pleasure for seeing them grow.
In the past he has opened churches in Scotland at Lockerbie, in the wake of the air crash in the town, Dumfries and Castle Douglas as well as in Penrith, Cumbria.
Barnsley-born Rev Grist, who is planning a Yorkshire tea party as one of his first social functions in Stalybridge, began his working life as a fork lift truck driver at a warehouse.
He became a committed Christian and when the church came calling in 1970 and he attended bible college in Surrey.
The Rev Grist was ordained as a Pentecostal minister who over a 30-year-period served in Middlesbrough, Broadstairs, Macclesfield, Carlisle and Derby.
He later switched to the Congregational Federation with postings at Carlisle and Blackpool where he started a church in a dilapidated building.
Rev Grist, 67, first came into contact with Stalybridge Congregational Church some years ago when he was Lancashire area minister when it was one of 32 under his jurisdiction.
He explained: “I had been a minister in Blackpool where I built up a church and handed it over to a younger man.
“I noticed Stalybridge’s last minister left about five years ago so I offered my services part-time.”
Rev Grist, who is president of the Congregational Federation and a tutor on training courses in Nottingham, will remain in Cleveleys and commute several times each week.
Back in Blackpool, he remains involved in prayer and initiatives and also runs a soft play centre.
Rev Grist, who is also an adviser to Aglow, an organisation for Christian women, plays table tennis in a league and can be found at the table four times a week for training and matches.
Though scheduled for retirement two years ago, he added there are no imminent plans to step aside as this is his vocation, and one he loves.
Rev Grist, who is married to Carole, is settling in at Stalybridge Congregational Church where he isn’t planning major changes.
He said: “I knew the church historically and it is welcoming, warm and also enterprising.
“I hope my ideas will be useful. I will be looking to improve what we already have rather than changing things.
“Initially I want to get to know parishioners, the town and ministers at other churches.”
The church runs a hugely popular Baker Street stay and play once a week that recently had 48 attending.
“There is a big need for play groups in the area,” explained deacon Julie Hooper who runs the playgroup.
Rev Grist is impressed how active the church is with events and fundraising – something he is keen to continue.
He says the church is always looking to expand its congregation, with all welcome at services at 11am on Sunday.
TWO other Stalybridge churches – Holy Trinity and Stalybridge Unitarian – are still looking to fill ministerial vacancies.
Ken Howard, warden at Stalybridge Unitarian, wrote in the church magazine: “We have no idea when we will appoint a new minister.
“There are simply not enough ministers within the denomination and even fewer of a free Christian persuasion.”