A BARNOLDSWICK vicar who went from studying metals to preaching is retiring after serving three West Craven churches for more than 25 years.

The Rev John Lancaster was appointed vicar of Holy Trinity and St Mary-le-Ghyll CofE Church, in Barnoldswick, and St Michael’s Church, Bracewell, on March 17, 1986.

Before his appointment he had spent 13 years as a metallurgist, which studies the physical and chemical behaviour of metallic elements.

He will retire on Tuesday – the day of his 65th birthday – and will take farewell services at all three churches this Sunday morning.

“I was inducted on St Patrick’s Day by the Rt Rev Roy Williamson, Bishop of Bradford, who was a proud Irishman,” said Mr Lancaster. “He likened the three Barnoldswick churches to a three-leaf clover and my job was to make them one clover. Since I’ve been vicar, we’ve come together and I think I’ve accomplished the task he set me.

“Life in Barnoldswick has been good. I’m going to miss the people. Over this period of time, I’ve become involved in people’s life stories.

“The things I won’t miss are the calls at nine o’clock in the morning on a bank holiday from people who want to book a wedding. And I shan’t miss the paperwork either.”

Mr Lancaster said that he and his wife, Sue, had been through a lot together with the parish over the years.

“There have been some interesting and exciting times,” he said. “I’ll remember the adaptation of Holy Trinity to create a hall at the back, the repair and installation of new bells at Ghyll and an organ overhaul and work on the village hall at Bracewell.”

He also said some of the more memorable moments included ‘In the footsteps of Jesus’ trips to the Middle East countries of Jordan, Israel and Syria. “It was interesting to enable the Bible to come alive in a different way,” he said.

And Mr Lancaster will always remember the kindness of the Syrian people who went out of their way to arrange for his wife to make an abrupt return to UK to be with his two-year-old granddaughter who contracted meningitis while the couple were on a trip with parishioners in 2000.