The Rev Andy Myers will be retiring as Vicar of Middleton in early September. We caught up with him to find out about his 13 years in Middleton.
What were your first impressions of Middleton?
“As a Leeds lad, from East Leeds I thought it was very much like the area I was brought up in: Seacroft, Swarcliffe and Stanks. People are very similar to the people there. Although at the time when I came it was very white working class and that’s changing now. And it’s got a much broader mix of ethnicities. All of this is to the good. I am proud to be working class and have always felt very comfortable here in this respect. I have known Middleton for many years, and had friends at school who lived here.”
What have been the highlights of your time here?
“Some of the highlights include the work I’ve been privileged to do in our schools. Not just our church school St Mary’s, but all the schools have been generous in allowing me to come in and do assemblies.
“But I have to say it might be quite surprising to people but I have been very privileged to conduct many funerals and have been privileged to serve people in their most difficult of times and get to know them a bit.
“During the Covid period a highlight has been working alongside our church Foodbank, and being able to serve our people’s great needs at this difficult time. Another highlight of my ministry here has been when we were able to provide a refuge for homeless refugees.
“I’ve been amazed at generosity of our local community and businesses have helped us to provide the services. In recent times I’ve been really proud of our church volunteers who helped to make our parochial Hall Centre for Covid-19 vaccinations.
“I’ve also been proud to have served as a trustee of Health For All and to see its projects utilising our Parochial Hall. Proud of being part of Middleton Elderly Aid. We’ve also been very proud to have facilitated the use of st cross as a Foodbank and youthclubs. Although all of the hard work has been done by local women.”
What has been most challenging?
“It won’t be surprising to anyone to know that I found the most challenging times have been during this Covid pandemic. Making decisions about how to serve our community open our church buildings safely for worship and prayer have been exceptionally difficult.
“Our communities needs have become so much more intense through the Covid pandemic through losing jobs, loss of income, and increasing levels of mental health issues. I’ve also seen many more examples of domestic violence. All very challenging for our little church, as we are often the last ditch stand for people who are in crisis.
“Trying to fund and manage both our churches of St Mary‘s and Saint Cross in difficult times has been exceptionally challenging. But there is no reason why our churches should not suffer alongside our people, whose personal challenges have been much higher than those of the clergy!”
What do you feel has been your greatest achievements in Middleton?
“Being able to provide a base for our Foodbank and youth projects run by our church warden Sarah and her fabulous team of dedicated women. They know who they are!
“In the past being able to have provided in church a bed and a meal for homeless refugees with the support of our churchwardens Kevin and Mark.
“In Recent times with all its issues providing a resource for Covid-19 vaccinations supported by our churchwardens Allan and Andrea and their team.”
What are your plans for retirement?
“God always looks at our Plans and laughs! But as I’m in the catholic tradition of the Church of England my belief is that you are a priest forever. You just don’t get paid forever!
“I will be returning to Garforth where I hope to worship locally and offer my services in any way that’s appropriate. Especially I want to spend much more time reading, studying and praying.
“I also want to become more politically involved to try and put some flesh on so many sermons I preached. Along with many other faiths, Christianity has a bias towards those who are financially challenged, and oppressed because of race or sexuality and I want to become, at the very least, a partial answer to the prayers that we offer. In the famous words: becoming the change that we want to see happen.
“I also hope to have more time for practising my guitar and I certainly need it!”
And a final word:
“I would like to say thank you to the people of Middleton for having me. Trying to avoid pious platitudes, but with all these challenges I’ve stayed here so long out of love for the people of Miggy – well most of them!
“I’ve always been very conscious of the many areas I would’ve liked to have done better in – our church is going through some challenging times and needs to change. We need to become less part of the establishment. More radical – more relevant – more engaged. I pray for my parishioners and know they will rise to the challenges ahead.”